This week brought an unfortunate setback for job creators in offshore energy exploration and related maritime industries: On December 8, the U.S. House of Representatives passed in their continuing resolution (CR) a provision that would allow the Department of the Interior to extend the review period for offshore-exploration plans from 30 to 90 days. President Obama and his administration claim that 30 days isn’t adequate time for a complete review of new permits. Given the administration’s record of job-killing policies when it comes to offshore drilling, that isn’t a surprise. From the moment the moratorium on offshore drilling was put in place following the BP disaster, they’ve continued to ignore the facts, promoted only those policies that mesh with their environmental politics, and further weakened a once-thriving American energy economy.
To date, Interior has failed to approve any new deepwater offshore permits in the 30-day window, resulting in a de facto moratorium on drilling that — as any Louisianan can tell you — has left thousands in the Gulf of Mexico at risk of losing their jobs. Allowing Interior to continue to drag its feet in the permitting process and extend the time frame for reviewing new permits does nothing to bring those jobs back to the Gulf Coast. This significant policy change also opens the door for radical environmental lawsuits to impede or delay the approval of permits, regardless of merit.
Tripling the review time is unacceptable and is just more proof that this administration is committed to promoting a culture that is antagonistic toward American energy exploration and development. From the initial moratorium on offshore drilling in the Gulf to the subsequent de facto moratorium resulting from an extremely slow permitting process, we continue to see their disregard for those most affected by their agenda, including residents of Louisiana and other Gulf States.
This week, I led a group of my colleagues in sending a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee requesting that this job-killing provision in the House-passed CR be removed before the Senate votes on it. Congress must wake up and see that this administration is pushing for language that would destroy domestic offshore energy production. They will stop at nothing to reduce — or even completely end — offshore exploration everywhere. This war on Gulf Coast economies must end, and further delaying the permitting process is not the solution.
— David Vitter is a U.S. senator from Louisiana.