Two Republican lawmakers have developed a plan they hope will put pressure on the Obama administration to speed up the permitting process for offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.
Reps. Bill Flores (R-TX) and Jeff Landry (R-LA) introduced legislation to codify timeliness of permitting process by establishing stringent deadlines and clear requirements on drilling applications. Leaseholders would even be able to request a refund on their bonus bid if the Department of Interior rejects an application.
The goal is to finally end the de facto drilling moratorium, which was the subject of Wednesday’s hearing of the House Natural Resources Committee.
“The Expedited Offshore Permitting Act aims to increase American energy production and reverse the Obama administration’s reckless anti-energy policies that are costing thousands of jobs, driving up gasoline prices and increasing uncertainty in the marketplace,” Flores said.
The legislation comes on the heels of conflicting information from the Obama administration on the number of permits currently pending. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar testified that seven deepwater permits and 47 shallow-water permits have been submitted in the past nine months.
But in a recent court filing, the Department of Justice produced much larger numbers: 57 deepwater applications and 270 shallow-water drilling permits.
By establishing a timeline for drilling permits, Congress would force an end to the bureaucratic quagmire at the Department of Interior. Administration officials have defended the delays as a safety measure in the wake of last year’s oil spill.
Yesterday’s hearing featured Scott Angelle, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources. Angelle spoke about the hardships his state has witnessed due to the delays. He called for “regulation without strangulation” and related how the uncertainty fostered by the Obama administration has dire economic effects for the Gulf of Mexico region.
Seahawk Drilling, a company in his state, was forced to file for bankruptcy and may not be able to play a role in the “the suddenly unstable futures of its nearly 500 employees.”
“It’s time we put the Gulf of Mexico back to work and restore stability and certainty from unlocking access and tapping into the vast amounts of taxpayer-owned resources that currently sit idle,” Flores said. “By establishing more stringent deadlines and other requirements for the offshore drilling permitting process, we may work to restore certainty in offshore oil and gas development.”
Matthew McKillip is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation.