The gap continues to widen between what President Obama claims to be true about domestic energy production and what Louisianians know is true. With prices at the pump climbing toward $4 a gallon, the President is asking us to believe that his administration supports expanded drilling off the Gulf Coast. Those of us who live there know that nothing could be further from the truth.
During a press conference on March 11, Obama left out a glaring detail when flaunting his alleged support of drilling: The Interior Department has only issued two permits for deepwater exploration since last April, and both of those were for drilling operations that were already approved at the time of the BP oil spill. He also failed to mention that federal permitting and revenue for offshore production has fallen off a cliff.
The President and the Interior Department are like a broken record. They’ve repeatedly claimed that there is no moratorium, and that the reason more permits haven’t been approved is that there are so few applications even in line.
Specifically, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar testified before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee two weeks ago that the administration has received only 47 shallow-water permit applications during the past nine months, and that only seven deepwater permit applications are pending. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement Director Michael Bromwich personally stated to me on Feb. 16 that only six deepwater permit applications are pending. And Bromwich publicly stated that deepwater permit approvals will be limited because “only a handful of completed applications have been received.”
But this is completely inconsistent with the Department of Justice’s motion filed last week in federal court for a stay of Judge Martin Feldman’s rulings. On page 11 of that filing, the Justice Department notes that there is potential harm in the “re-prioritization that results from the court’s orders” to issue seven permits in Feldman’s February and March orders. The department explains that this is because there are 270 shallow-water permit applications pending, and 52 deepwater permit applications pending.
It’s a mathematical impossibility for both Interior’s representations and the filings of the Department of Justice to be accurate. It is not possible for there to be “too few permits” awaiting review, and simultaneously “too many” permits being reviewed to make issuing a particular handful problematic. In essence, Interior is trying to give lowball numbers to the public and Congress to try to illustrate that the ball is in the industry’s court. But at the same time, its lawyers at the Justice Department are telling the court that they are overwhelmed and can’t possibly be asked to refocus on a specific subset of permits.
This sounds confusing, right? The numbers don’t add up or match up. They’re never the same. The bottom line is that the administration is keeping two different sets of books. And there’s no way to reconcile them.
Why is it doing this? To confuse and distract Americans from its anti-domestic energy production agenda.
The Interior Department’s de facto moratorium has destroyed jobs in Louisiana, contributed to the bankruptcy of at least one major employer, forced layoffs at others, and could force everyone to have to pay $4 for a gallon of gasoline. The damage is devastating. And yet the President continues to mislead the public in order to pursue a political agenda.
Until the administration responds to my repeated requests to start issuing at least 15 new exploratory permits, I’ll continue to block two of Obama’s key nominations for administration positions: Scott Doney, Obama’s nominee to be National Oceanice and Atmospheric Administration’s chief scientist, and Dan Ashe, President Obama’s nominee to head the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the Department of the Interior.
Fifteen permits will be a start—but the fight will continue. The courts, Louisianians, and the American people all get it. Allowing us to produce domestic energy is essential. It’s essential in the fight against $4-a-gallon gas, to reduce our dependency on bad actors such as Muammar al-Gaddafi in Libya, and to unshackle our domestic energy-producing economy, specifically in the Gulf of Mexico .
None of us wants to see $4-a-gallon gasoline again. None of us wants to rely on the Middle East for our energy supply. All of us want to see our economy growing again. One simple solution starts in Louisiana, just off our coast.