WTVY-TV Dothan, Ala.

Tuberville, Colleagues Demand Commerce Secretary Stop Delays on Existing Oil and Gas Leases, Increase Energy Production in the Gulf of Mexico

By Tommy Tuberville

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) along with Senators Richard Shelby (R-AL), Ted Cruz (R-TX), John Cornyn (R-TX), John Kennedy (R-LA), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Roger Wicker (MS), Cindy Hyde-Smith (MS), John Barrasso (WY), John Thune (R-SD), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Mike Lee (R-UT), James Inhofe (R-OK), Roy Blunt (R-MO), James Lankford (OK), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Steve Daines (R-MT) sent a letter to President Biden’s Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo calling for the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to quickly issue permits required to bring additional production online from existing offshore federal oil and gas leases. These permits are currently delayed.

Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas receive a share of royalties from the leases in the Gulf of Mexico through the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA). GOMESA is unique to the Gulf of Mexico and without ongoing leases the revenue shared with the states would likely diminish.

The senators wrote: “While the Biden Administration and Members of Congress fault the domestic oil and gas industry for sitting idle on over 9,000 drilling permits and millions of acres in ‘inactive leases’, NMFS’s permitting delays represent one example of the Administration’s de facto ban on new drilling – impeding domestic oil and gas investment, exploration, and production.”

The letter notes that the delays are principally due to “three administration-made and admitted mistakes” caused by mathematic errors in calculating the number of endangered species in the Gulf of Mexico in a 2021 Final Rule governing offshore oil and gas exploration based on those faulty calculations.

The senators called on Secretary Raimondo to “expeditiously correct these errors by putting in place … tangible short-term solutions to stop any further permitting delays,” including an interim rule allowing permitting to continue, expeditiously issuing a new Final Rule to correct the miscalculations, and shifting resources to process permits under alternative mechanisms.

The senators added: “It is unacceptable that agency miscalculations have restricted access to safe, secure, and reliable domestic oil and gas production through substantial, unnecessary, and arbitrary permitting delays.”