Bipartisan House group says Obama is blocking offshore energy

26 October 2009 19:39  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--A group of US House members on Monday charged that the Obama administration is moving to block production of US outer continental shelf (OCS) oil and gas resources, arguing that developing White House policy ignores offshore energy.

In a letter signed by a 59 Republican and 10 Democrat House members representing coastal and inland states, the legislators said they are concerned that a White House task force report on a new national ocean management policy “is not balanced and could be used to block offshore energy development”.

The US petrochemical industry and downstream chemical producers are heavily dependent on natural gas as a feedstock and power fuel. Along with many other manufacturing interests, they have been pressing Congress to renew offshore oil and gas development.

Initiated by Representative Doc Hastings of Washington state - the ranking Republican on the House Natural Resources Committee - the letter said that an interim report by the Ocean Policy Task Force focuses chiefly on environmental stewardship “but does not adequately support other national priorities, including the economic development of ocean resources”.

The White House task force was established by President Barack Obama in June this year, charged with developing a national policy on US offshore areas that would co-ordinate the work of all federal agencies.

In its interim report issued on 10 September, the task force identified nine priorities that should shape national policy on offshore areas, including “ecosystem-based management as a foundational principle”.

The other priorities identified by the task force included strengthening coastal areas against the threat of global warming, restoration work, water quality criteria, identifying environmental stewardship needs and coordination with international efforts.

“Not one of the nine priorities identified by the task force makes any reference to offshore energy development,” said Jill Strait, spokeswoman for the Republican minority on the committee. “That is definitely a concern” for Hastings and others who signed the letter, she said.

She said the 69 House members who signed the letter “are concerned that national ocean policy going forward could block offshore energy development”.

“Since taking office, we’ve seen repeated examples of the Obama administration blocking energy production, offshore and onshore,” Strait said. 

She cited moves by the Interior Department to withdraw the five-year offshore energy development plan issued by the Bush administration and the withdrawal or cancellation of previously issued drilling leases in Utah, among other things.

The letter cautions that “an ocean management policy that puts new restrictions on energy development would not only raise prices for consumers but would negatively impact Americans working in the offshore energy industry and all Americans whose livelihoods depend on access to affordable energy”.

Strait said the 69 House members want to see the final ocean policy task force report, due in early December, “reflect our concerns and recommendations and support and promote offshore energy production”.

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