Cochran, Wicker Encourage Progress on Offshore Energy Plan

Bipartisan Group Sees Oil & Gas Leasing Plan as Energy & Economic Security Issue

October 22, 2009

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker are among a bipartisan group of Senators who are encouraging the completion of a plan authorizing increased offshore oil and gas leasing in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), including the Central Gulf of Mexico that covers Mississippi.

The Mississippi Senators are among 35 Senators who recently wrote Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to express their strong support for the Draft Proposed Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program (DPP), a five-year plan to oversee OCS energy lease sales and development from 2010-2015.

“Greater energy development in the Gulf of Mexico makes sense on many levels, including improving American energy and economic security,” Cochran said.  “Technology has advanced to a point where tapping our oil and natural gas reserves in the Gulf can be done in deeper waters with greater efficiency and environmental safety.  My colleagues and I believe the planning process for 2010 to 2015 should be completed as expeditiously as possible.”

“Our country has seen incredibly high and unstable energy prices because for years we have resisted responsible, environmentally-sound production of America’s energy reserves,” Wicker said.  “Now is the time to take action to develop our resources to secure our energy future and create more quality jobs for Americans.  This draft plan is an important step in making this happen.  The Obama administration should move it forward.”

The DPP, developed by the Mineral Management Service, would set the perimeters for oil and gas lease sales within the 26 different OCS planning areas, including the Central Gulf of Mexico area that includes the coasts of Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama.

The DPP is part of an ongoing process within the Department of the Interior to set an OCS energy exploration and production policy.  As part of that process, states, organizations and individuals are invited to offer input on the proposal, including issues related to offshore buffers to restrict development.  The draft report notes that more than 85 percent of the citizen comments on the DPP from Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana supported starting a new lease sale program.

“Implementing a sensible, forward-thinking energy policy will allow for responsible leasing and development of America’s energy resources and will help industries and businesses here at home that rely heavily on natural gas and crude oil.  It will also further our national security and energy security interests and, of course, spur jobs and economic growth as we open new areas to leasing and development,” the Senators’ letter to Salazar states.

“We believe that the DPP is an important step in creating a robust, diverse national energy policy which will help secure our energy future.  We urge you to move forward on the DPP as you work to finalize a new five-year OCS plan,” the letter concludes.

In 2006, Congress enacted the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act that authorized energy exploration and development within the Gulf, which could hold an estimated 100 billion barrels of oil and approximately 420 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves.  That law (PL.109-432) also established a revenue-sharing program that would allocate a 37.5 percent share of revenues for Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Texas.  These funds are intended to help compensate states for coastal restoration and protection.

Congress in 2008 allowed a 1982 congressional moratorium against OCS oil and gas exploration and production to expire, and President Bush also lifted an executive withdrawal on OCS leasing operations.