PORT FOURCHON, La. (AP) — U.S. House majority whip Steve Scalise took eight U.S. congressmen on a tour of an offshore oil and natural gas platform on Thursday to highlight the importance of the busy Gulf of Mexico's energy production.
The Louisiana GOP congressman from Metairie recently took over as majority whip. He has been taking colleagues on offshore tours since he was elected to the U.S. House in 2008.
He has become a major supporter of the oil and gas industry and at a round-table at Port Fourchon with offshore businesspeople, he repeated pledges to reduce government oversight and expand oil and gas production.
The House members — seven Republicans and one Democrat — were flown to a Hess offshore production field about 65 miles off the Louisiana coast. The production field is in the Mississippi Canyon, a deep-water location near the site of the massive BP oil spill in 2010.
Scalise said he would be pushing for a new energy bill this year focused on speeding up exports of liquefied natural gas. He said he also would push for a bill to rein in regulations that are not first approved by Congress.
"Why should an unelected bureaucrat be able to impose costs on you?"
At the round table discussion in Port Fourchon, a major offshore supply port on the Gulf, the congressional members heard complaints about the regulatory atmosphere created by the Obama administration. The members said they shared their concerns.
"We need to get these agencies out of your way and let you work," said U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga.
"I don't think this administration will change one iota," said U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont. "It will be heavy seas. Navy perspective: batten your hatches." He is a former Navy Seal.
The Hess production field, which is called Tubular Bells, is an example of deep water drilling. The field is in about 4,500 feet of water and the reservoir Hess and its partner Chevron are tapping into lies about 20,000 feet under the sea floor.
Hess purchased the lease from BP after the British oil giant's catastrophic blowout at the Macondo well on April 20, 2010.
About 45 people work on the platform each day. Company officials told the congressional delegation that on average a roustabout makes about $50,000 to $60,000 a year when they start in the industry and that crews work 12 hour shifts for two weeks and then take two weeks off.
The members, dressed in coveralls and hard hats, saw how oil and gas is separated; learned about flares and safety measures; and got a sense for what it means to work in the middle of the ocean on a swaying platform.
Six miles away a drilling rig was working on the newest well that will feed into the production platform.
Hess hopes to produce 60,000 barrels of oil a day once at the field's peak.
"I enjoyed learning how we extract oil from the ocean," said U.S. Rep. Mimi Walters, R-Calif., during the tour of the platform. She said drilling "is very safe today, much safer than it was in the past."