GOP criticizes Obama’s ‘restrictive’ offshore drilling plan
By Timothy Cama – 04/15/15 05:24 PM EDT
House Republicans chastised the Obama administration Wednesday for putting forth a “restrictive” plan for offshore oil and natural gas drilling.
Republicans in the House Natural Resources Committee’s subcommittee on energy and mineral resources said the 2017-2022 plan would have the lowest number of sales since the 1980s while taking substantial areas of the continental shelf off the table.
Since the number of lease sales can not increase, lawmakers asked the Abigail Hopper, director of the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to finalize a plan that is much more inclusive.
“This is not a demonstration of commitment to more oil and gas production,” said Rep. John Fleming (R-La.), who was chairing the hearing.
“An aggressive offshore leasing strategy would truly demonstrate a true commitment to [outer continental shelf] oil and gas production in the U.S. It would also demonstrate a commitment to our nation’s long-term energy security and to American jobs,” he continued.
Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) was particularly concerned with a plan to hold only one lease sale for the Atlantic Ocean.
“Industry’s expressed an interest in participating in more lease sales than you propose, including in the Atlantic,” Lummis said. “Wouldn’t it make more sense to err on the side of more?”
Hopper defended the plan and said it reflects Obama’s commitment to domestic oil and gas production.
“Includes nearly 80 percent of estimated undiscovered, technically recoverable oil and gas resources on the outer continental shelf,” she told the panel.
She said the low number of lease sales is only because the agency chose to consolidate sales in the Gulf of Mexico that previously would have been separated.
“So, if you broke them in the way we break them out now, they would add up to 30 instead of 10,” she said.
Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) said the oil industry is always going to want more area opened, and lawmakers should push back.
“Most in the industry wouldn’t, quite frankly, be satisfied until every acre of the outer continental shelf is open for drilling,” he said. “They always want more.”
Lowenthal also urged BOEM to account for the entire greenhouse gas impact of the oil and gas that comes from offshore drilling.
“BOEM’s draft program does have not a lot to say about climate change,” he said.
Hopper said she and Interior officials are still figuring out how to account for the climate impact of the lease sales.
Lawmakers also heard from North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R), who was supportive of offshore drilling in his state’s section of the outer continental shelf.
“Harnessing America’s offshore energy reserves in an environmentally safe and responsible manner will lead to greater energy independence and more prosperity for North Carolina and the entire nation,” he said.
McCrory estimated that drilling off North Carolina’s shores could bring 55,000 jobs and $3 billion to the state’s economy over 10 years.