Governors to Obama: Open up offshore resources
BY KURT ABRAHAM
HOUSTON -- In an Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) panel discussion Monday afternoon , governors from eight states issued a joint message to President Barack Obama, to open up the nation’s offshore resources fully, and let the states handle more of the development. Led by Texas Gov. Rick Perry (Republican), the group of eight governors, whose states lie along the Gulf, Atlantic and Alaskan coasts, believes that enough time has passed since the Macondo accident in April 2010, yet the federal government continues to let the drilling permit process drag on unnecessarily. They want to see speedier permitting, and they want to see more of the U.S. coastline opened up to exploration and potential exploitation. “I think that everyone has suffered unnecessarily from the endless wait for permits,” said Perry. “The average delay is up 40%. There are unnecessary delays.”
In addition to Perry, the group of eight governors, all Republicans, includes Phil Bryant (Mississippi), Robert Bentley (Alabama), Bobby Jindal (Louisiana), Sean Parnell (Alaska), Nikki Haley (South Carolina), Pat McCrory (North Carolina) and Bob McDonnell (Virginia). Those present in the panel discussion were Perry, Bryant, Bentley, Parnell, Haley and McCrory. Jindal and McDonnell were represented by their chiefs of staff. Parnell tied the need for more offshore development to the health of the U.S. economy. “There are 11.7 million people unemployed right now—are we satisfied with that?,” asked Parnell. “Are we satisfied with tepid growth? No! Yet, offshore Alaska, I've got to say that one company had its own issues during one year of operational work (a reference to Shell). "But there were six years of permitting and operational delay to bring it to that point." Parnell also noted that ConocoPhillips (COP) has said that won't drill in Alaskan waters this summer, either, because it does not want to commit resources and then be unable to obtain all the necessary permits. “We need clear, consistent rulemaking on a federal level,” said Parnell.
The governors were united in saying that the states have the experience, resources and knowledge to supervise offshore drilling activity, and they want to have more authority to work with operators to expand exploration and drilling. The group of eight also wants a larger share of royalties from federal production off their coastlines. Yet, for that to happen, the current federal administration is going to require a changed attititude, said Gov. Phil Bryant, perhaps the group’s most vocal critic of Obama policies. “Many of the federal bureaucrats trying to tell us what to do weren’t even in place, when the Macondo accident took place,” said Bryant. “But they, by golly, are going to tell us how to do things. Right now, the average permitting time is 106 days, compared to the historical average of 61 days.” Bryant said that he took offense to the condescending manner in which some Obama officials treat the states, as regards offshore operations and safety. “No one cares more about the Gulf of Mexico than those who live along it,” he explained. “Somehow, the federal government and the Parks Service believe that we need their permission to develop resources along the Gulf; that somehow, we’re going to harm it. Nothing could be farther from the truth.”
Taking another angle on federal attitudes, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said that “the voices of misinformation are out there,” as regards the call by the group of eight OCS governors for the federal government to expand OCS revenue and royalties. Serving as the current chairman of the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission, Bentley said that “we in Alabama understand the importance of OCS development and production.” Yet, he noted, there is great resistance in the Obama administration to either expand OCS development and/or increase OCS royalties. Chiming in on the royalty issue, Garrett Graves, executive assistant for coastal activities to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, noted that “$200 billion has been generated for the U.S. Treasury from offshore activity.”
On the subject of opening more coastline to exploration and potential exploitation, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley led the charge. “All of us up here (in the panel of eight) want to develop energy and make sure that we are as energy-independent as possible,” said Haley. “So, if we’re saying that, why is the federal government stopping us? Those of us in states along the Atlantic say, ‘Let us step up and develop resources offshore.” North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory amplified on Haley’s comments. “North Carolina wants to get involved in energy exploration, because we need jobs,” said McCrory. “But let me be specific: The White House is holding us up. In North Carolina, we have 60 million acres prohibited from offshore drilling. McCrory cited a recent meeting of U.S. governors with President Obama at the White House. At that meeting, McCrory said that he was the governor designated with asking Obama why he has not opened up the Atlantic coastline to exploration. “I got an answer that was no answer at all,” said McCrory. “It sounded liked something that one of the talking heads on MSNBC would have said. He (Obama) basically said, ‘The situation needs more review.’”
Martin Kent, chief of staff to Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, said that his state is “a strong advocate for an all-of-the-above energy policy.” He said that there is broad, bi-partisan support for the initiatives that the group of eight governors is pushing. “We have 85% support in the Commonwealth of Virginia for offshore development,” said Kent.