Sunday, July 21, 2024
Sunday, July 21, 2024

Cassidy Calls Out Interior Department for Dragging Feet on Offshore Lease Sales

Submitted by United States Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana

WASHINGTON (July 10, 2024) – United States Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) today grilled President Biden’s nominee to become deputy secretary for the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI). He called out DOI for dragging its feet on offshore lease sales in an apparent attempt to indefinitely delay energy production in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Will there be a lease sale in 2024?” asked Dr. Cassidy.

Nominee Shannon Estenoz responded by citing the Biden administration’s Five Year Plan, which Cassidy has repeatedly criticized. Currently, there is no offshore energy lease sale scheduled for 2024, making it the first time in 50 years to not have a sale.

“[President Biden has] been in office for three and a half years. If you started off the bat, we’d have [a sale] happening now, and something happening in 2025 and 2026,” said Dr. Cassidy. “So, it seems as if there is foot-dragging… we’re technically doing it, but in reality, those families who rely upon this income—as your family once did—will be left out to dry.”

“[F]rom the outside looking in, it’s just hard to convince me that this is not a strategy of death of 1,000 cuts to the people who depend upon this industry for their economic livelihood,” said Dr. Cassidy.

Cassidy also discussed the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Interior’s proposed Rice’s whale regulation designed to undercut offshore energy development. The proposed regulation subjects offshore vessels to additional restrictions not imposed on other vessels in certain areas of the Gulf of Mexico.

“There’s been this latest ruling regarding the Rice’s whale, in which they’ve found critical habitat maybe because there was a single—possible, maybe, kind of, we think, could have been—sighting off of Texas,” said Dr. Cassidy. “[Y]ou can’t help but notice that it’s five miles wide here, but where there’s outer continental shelf drilling, it’s 20-30 miles wide. Hmm, that science makes a lot of sense to me—no it doesn’t.”

Cassidy also discussed his RISEE Act aimed at improving offshore revenue sharing. The Louisiana state constitution requires all revenue from offshore revenue-sharing to go to restoring the state’s coastlines.

“Last year, Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama missed out on about $216 million dollars that would have gone to local resiliency,” said Dr. Cassidy. “If we invest now, we have to spend less later.”

Background

Last summer, Cassidy introduced the Offshore Energy Security Act with U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), which would require the DOI to hold two offshore oil and gas lease sales in 2024 and 2025. He similarly introduced the Supporting Made in America Energy Act with U.S. Senator Steve Daines (R-MT), which would require DOI to hold four onshore oil and gas lease sales in the top oil and gas producing states as well as requiring two offshore oil and gas lease sales in each available area in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska.

The last lease sale, Lease Sale 261 received 352 total bids, one shy of the record high for the last Five Year Plan. The sale sent a strong signal that industry is optimistic about the future of energy production in the Gulf, despite years of slow-walking by the Biden administration. It should be motivation to hold more sales, not fewer. 

Last September, Cassidy led a group of colleagues in introducing the Warding Off Hostile Administrative Lease Efforts (WHALE) Act to prevent the U.S. Departments of Commerce and the Interior from issuing maritime rules related to the Rice’s whale that would impede offshore energy development and military activities. Yesterday, the independent, non-partisan U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) responded to an inquiry led by Cassidy and found that U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) Notice to Lessees and Operators of Federal Oil and Gas, and Sulphur Leases in the Gulf of Mexico Outer Continental Shelf is a rule.

He also filed an amicus brief asserting that the settlement agreement undermined the faithful execution of the laws since the lease sale was required by the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. At the direction of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, the BOEM announced they will hold the oil and gas lease sale for the Gulf of Mexico on December 20, 2023, and include lease blocks that were previously and unlawfully excluded due to stipulations on the Rice’s whale.

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News, press releases, press conferences, and opinions from Louisiana United States Senators, Louisiana United States House of Representatives District 3, Louisiana Governor, Louisiana State Senators from Districts 22 and 23, and Louisiana State Representatives from Districts 43 and 49.

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