NOIA President Randall Luthi issued the following statement in response to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s announcement on offshore leasing:
“We are both relieved and disappointed by today’s announcement.
On one hand, we’ve been pressing Secretary Salazar to move on the 2012-2017 offshore leasing plan. Time is simply running out to get the necessary planning work accomplished. The announcement is a relief in that it shows forward movement toward future offshore lease sales. This is important, since energy production from the OCS accounts for about 27 percent of the oil and about 14 percent of the natural gas produced in this country.
Without question, we are disappointed that scheduled 2011 lease sales will be delayed or possibly cancelled and that new areas will not be considered, particularly offshore Virginia, where bi-partisan interest and support exists among the Governor, both U.S. Senators, and a majority of the Congressional delegation and in the Eastern Gulf where there is great promise for deepwater resources. Safety measures currently being finalized by industry will be in place in the next weeks and months, and to essentially put in place a moratorium for 7 more years in the eastern GOM and other offshore areas, goes too far.
The delay of at least two years of scheduled lease sales shows a lack of understanding of oil and gas production. A lease sale is only one step in the process and doesn’t necessarily mean production will occur. Likewise the argument that there are 29 million acres available for development shows a lack of understanding that oil and gas reserves are not located everywhere nor uniformly located under all 29 million acres.
Limiting the areas for the EIS scoping process automatically removes them from potential development until after 2017. Today’s decision, coupled with the slow permit approval in the Gulf of Mexico, will cripple our Nation’s ability to produce home grown energy and high quality jobs for the next generation. It is estimated that energy exploration and production offshore Virginia alone, for example, would create thousands of new, well-paying jobs and generate millions of dollars in revenue.
Getting the time-tested planning process moving again is a good step in the right direction because lease sales are as important to future energy security for the nation as restarting permitting on shallow-water and deepwater wells.
What would be more valuable to the nation’s economic and energy future would be the recognition that valuable energy resources lie in those areas that have been kept off-limits to even exploration for decades, and will now apparently continue to be locked away.