USA: Salazar Seeks Effective Tools for Overseeing of Offshore Oil and Gas Development

 

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources regarding Interior’s work to facilitate the development of oil and gas resources on the nation’s Outer Continental Shelf and public lands.

Joined by Deputy Secretary David J. Hayes and Director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) Michael R. Bromwich, Secretary Salazar also discussed the progress of reforms Interior is undertaking to strengthen management and oversight of energy development in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

“The Administration is committed to promoting safe and responsible domestic oil and gas production as part of a broad energy strategy that will protect consumers and reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” Secretary Salazar said. “Rising gas prices are putting an added strain on American families, and while there are no quick fixes to the problem, there are steps that we can take to secure America’s energy future.”

Secretary Salazar testified that the Administration has identified a number of legislative principles to facilitate timely and safe domestic oil and gas development. The principles include prompting investment in domestic oil and gas development by issuing leases with shorter terms, as well as incentives to encourage companies to get their leases into production in a timely manner.

Salazar also called on Congress to provide the tools for the federal government to effectively oversee offshore oil and gas development, including codifying safety and environmental standards that BOEMRE has established through administrative procedures that strengthen requirements for everything from well design and workplace safety to corporate accountability.

Finally, Salazar expressed the Administration’s desire to see Congress ensure a fair return for American taxpayers by repealing portions of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that expanded a now-outdated royalty relief program for offshore drilling operators; by raising or eliminating the per-incident limit on access to the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund; and by repealing arbitrary limits on liability for damages resulting from offshore drilling, which have served as an implicit subsidy for the oil and gas industry for two decades.

During the hearing, Salazar also discussed President Obama’s strategy, laid out in his weekly radio address, to continue to expand responsible and safe domestic oil production. The initiatives, part of the Administration’s overall Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future, include conducting annual lease sales in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve – while respecting sensitive areas, speeding up the evaluation of oil and gas resources in the mid and south Atlantic, and creating new incentives for industry to develop their unused leases both on and offshore.

Additionally, to give companies more time to meet higher safety standards for exploration and drilling, the administration is extending drilling leases in areas of the Gulf of Mexico that were impacted by the temporary moratorium, as well as certain leases off the coast of Alaska. Finally, the President is establishing a new interagency working group to facilitate efficient reviews of proposed Arctic development projects while ensuring that health, safety and environmental standards are fully met.

Source:DOI , May 18, 2011;

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