Thursday, July 26, 2012

House Approves Expanded 5-Year OCS Plan; Senate Bill Introduced

Jul 25: U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) introduced bipartisan legislation to expand American offshore, Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), energy production with a revised five-year leasing plan and provide revenue sharing to all participating coastal states. The Offshore Petroleum Expansion Now Act of 2012 -- OPEN Act -- is co-sponsored by Senators Jim Webb (D-VA); Mark Warner  (D-VA); Mary Landrieu, (D-LA); John Hoeven (R-ND); and Jim Inhofe (R-OK). The Senate action came on the same day as the House voted, mostly along Republican party-lines to replace the Administration's 5-year offshore oil and gas leasing plan [See WIMS 6/29/12] with an expanded plan of their own [See WIMS 7/25/12]. The House Republican plan, included in H.R.6082, passed by a vote of 253 - 170. The Administration's plan, included in H.R.6168 failed to pass by a vote of 164 - 261.

    The Senate bill, S.3438, bill provides what Senator Murkowski calls "a common-sense alternative to the President's proposed 2012-2017 offshore plan," which included just 12 lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico, one in Alaska's Cook Inlet, and the potential for two sales in Alaska's Arctic. The OPEN Act would add an additional dozen lease sales to that list, and includes multiple area-wide sales in Alaska's Beaufort and Chukchi seas. 

    Under current law, the President must submit his five-year plan to Congress for a mandatory 60-day review. Senator Murkowski and other critics of the President's proposal point out that the President's plan excludes nearly 90 percent of America's outer continental shelf. When DOI/BOEM introduced the Administration plan on June 28, they indicated, "As is mandated by the OCS Lands Act, the Proposed Final Program has been submitted to Congress. The Secretary may implement the Program in 60 days, however no further action is needed prior to its implementation, and BOEM is on track to hold the first sale under the new program later this year." On July 23, BOEM announced more than 20 million acres offshore Texas for oil and gas exploration and development in a lease sale scheduled to take place in New Orleans on November 28, 2012 [See WIMS 7/24/12].

    Sen. Murkowski said, "The OPEN Act sends a clear message that America is serious about developing its energy resources to fuel an economic recovery. This bill will not only improve our energy security and create jobs, it also ensures that states receive a fair share of the revenue generated off their coastlines." Sen. Landrieu said, "This legislation would replace the administration's shortsighted five-year plan for drilling in the OCS, and instead allow the U.S. to tap into the vast oil and gas potential off our coasts. In addition to creating jobs and giving the U.S. economy a much needed boost through increased energy production revenues, this bill includes revenue sharing for coastal states that produce essential energy resources for our country, something that is lacking in other drilling legislation."

    Sen. Webb, who has repeatedly called for Virginia's inclusion in the administration's five-year oil and gas leasing plan said, "I have long advocated opening up more of the nation's outer continental shelf resources to responsible natural gas and oil exploration. Energy exploration and subsequent production within the Virginia Outer Continental Shelf -- if coupled with environmental protections and an equitable formula for sharing revenues between the state and federal governments -- would boost domestic energy supplies, while benefiting the Commonwealth's economy."

    In addition to the sales off Alaska's northern coast, the OPEN Act adds lease sales off the mid-Atlantic coast and allows exploration from existing infrastructure in Southern California. It also provides revenue sharing (37.5 percent) to any state with energy production off its coast. The revenue sharing language is technology neutral, covering all forms of energy production, including offshore wind energy.

    Access a release from Senator Murkowski with more comments from cosponsors (click here). Access legislative details for S.3438 (click here). [#Energy/OCS]

32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals