US senators join industry in urging offshore energy effort

21 September 2009 22:00  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--A bipartisan group of US senators on Monday joined energy industry officials in urging the Obama administration to move quickly on offshore development, saying the nation’s economy depends on access to those oil and gas resources.

In a letter to Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar, senators Kay Bailey Hutchison (Republican-Texas) and Byron Dorgan (Democrat-North Dakota) were joined by 29 other Republican and four Democrat senators in urging prompt action on development of US outer continental shelf (OCS) oil and gas resources.

Monday was the deadline for public comment on the department’s next five-year plan, covering 2010-2015, for development of US offshore oil and gas resources.

An aggressive five-year development plan was initially issued in December 2008 by the Bush administration just before President Barak Obama took office earlier this year.

However, on being named by Obama to head the Interior Department, Salazar withdrew the Bush offshore plan, ordered a round of public hearings and extended the comment period by six months.

The US petrochemicals industry and downstream chemical manufacturers are heavily dependent on natural gas as both a feedstock and energy fuel and have been pressing Congress for more access to what are believed to be abundant offshore oil and gas resources.

Much of US outer continental shelf regions - especially off the east and west coasts - were held off limits to drilling under a 27-year-long congressional moratorium that was allowed to expire in September last year.

The senators, representing more than one-third of the Senate membership, urged Salazar to move quickly to draw up a final five-year plan for the OCS regions.

Salazar and the Obama administration have been accused of derailing and delaying production of domestic oil and gas reserves on federally owned onshore and offshore regions.

Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute (API), was critical of the department’s pace of action on OCS development.

“Despite the public’s clear desire for more domestic energy development and the industry’s years of experience operating offshore in an environmentally sensitive way, this administration repeatedly has slow-peddled this plan which would benefit all Americans, especially in these tough economic times,” Gerard said.

In recent testimony on Capitol Hill, Salazar indicated that the administration might wait until 2012 before implementing a new five-year offshore development plan.

“It’s time to end the delays,” said Gerard. He said the administration “must act now to ensure that America has the energy it needs today - and in the future”.

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By: Joe Kamalick
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