At a recent hearing, Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Chair Joe Manchin (D-WV) led a robust discussion featuring bipartisan agreement that offshore energy development benefits the economy, workforce and revenue streams that finance sustainability programs, if operated safely and responsibly.
The hearing was to consider the “Offshore Energy Development in Federal Waters and Leasing Under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.”
“Every state and county in the country has benefited from OCS revenue through the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” Manchin said. “We secured $900 million in permanent annual funding, along with addressing deferred maintenance on our public lands in the Great American Outdoors Act last year.”
Ranking Member Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) agreed and emphasized the valuable jobs the offshore industry provides.
“Jobs in the offshore oil and gas industry pay well above the average state and national wage,” Barrasso said. “These are jobs that lift families out of poverty and put children through college.”
During expert testimony, senators pressed Amanda Lefton, Director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, U.S. Department of the Interior, to say when the moratorium on new leases would end. Lefton did not have a specific answer about the timeline for Interior’s review process, but she said an interim report to describe the focus and next steps would be released in early summer.
Gov. John Bel Edwards (D-LA) testified on the severe impacts Louisiana faces from a long-term ban on offshore energy development. Louisiana is home to 250,000 energy workers and 26% of Louisiana’s overall GDP comes from oil and gas activities.
The state could lose $4.5 billion dollars if development of new energy projects is stifled.
“Our fossil fuels must come from somewhere, and I think it is clear to everyone that producing our energy at home is overwhelmingly in the national interest,” Edwards told the committee. “Our dollars spent on energy will produce jobs and pay taxes here at home. As a matter of national security, we can protect our supply of fossil fuel energy better if it is produced at home. Our environmental standards for fossil fuel production are stronger in the United States, and we know our environmental laws will be enforced. And we avoid the environmental risks and greenhouse gas emissions that accompany the movement of fossil fuels into our nation from overseas.”
The hearing made clear that Interior will receive bipartisan pressure from lawmakers to clarify the timeline of the moratorium and consider in its rulemaking the detrimental effects a long-term ban would have on both the economy and the environment.
Deidre Kohlrus, Director Government Affairs, writes about industry-specific policies for the Energy Workforce & Technology Council. Click here to subscribe to the Council’s newsletter, which highlights sector-specific issues, best practices, Council activities and more.