Image by Kristina Kasputienė from Pixabay

Are there leases in the Gulf or not? Both sides of the argument are preparing their cases.

The Biden administration’s proposed plan for offshore oil and gas leasing for the next five years has left fossil fuel advocates wanting for more and environmental groups hoping for less. The plan — unveiled Friday by the Department of the Interior a day after the previous plan expired — calls for anywhere from zero to 11 lease sales in the next five years, all but one of which are proposed for the Gulf of Mexico. The plan must go through at least a 90-day public comment period before the Department of the Interior can send a revised draft to Congress and President Joe Biden for review. Mirroring the last five-year plan, the Interior Department’s draft limits leasing to the central and west Gulf, off the Louisiana and Texas coasts, and continues a federal drilling moratorium in the eastern Gulf. It calls for one Gulf lease sale in 2023 and two each in 2024 through 2027, followed by another in 2028. The lone non-Gulf sale would be in Alaska’s Cook Inlet. The Atlantic and Pacific coasts would be off limits. The “sales” allow companies to bid for exploratory leases in federal offshore waters.

Proponents go back to the economic issues – so many workers and they would be out of a job.

Fossil fuel advocates say a lack of lease sales would devastate Gulf Coast economies that rely on drilling for jobs, tax revenue and coastal restoration funds. But environmental advocacy groups slammed the possibility of any sales, saying they are unnecessary and would hardly lower gas prices or help the U.S. economy. Mike Moncla, president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, called the plan “ambiguous, to say the least.” “This was the Biden administration’s chance to show Americans that they’re committed to domestic production, and they chose to give us more ambiguity,” Moncla said in a statement. Tommy Faucheux, president of the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, said the proposed plan does not do enough to meet the nation’s energy demands. “Despite the announcement of a new plan, the (Department of the Interior) is still well-behind schedule in this multi-year regulatory process and the consequences for Louisiana and the Gulf Coast will be enormous,” Faucheux said in a statement. U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, blasted the lapse in the leasing program, saying it will lead the U.S. to rely on oil from overseas and will deprive the state of coastal protection funds from the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, or GOMESA. “Folks in south Louisiana already can’t afford everyday costs due to Biden Administration policies, and the price we will pay to pick up the pieces after the next storm will be salt in the wound,” Graves said in a statement. U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Metairie, called the no-lease option “extreme and reckless.” “This radical plan comes at a time when Louisiana families are facing record-high gas prices and runaway inflation that is hurting our economy,” said Scalise, the House Republican whip.

Opponents note that it will take years from bidding on a lease to producing oil.

But Anne Rolfes, director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, noted future leases will have no immediate effect on gas prices because it takes exploration companies years to extract oil. She said those same companies have thousands of idle leases they could use now. Rolfes also questioned why the Gulf of Mexico — and not the Atlantic or Pacific coasts — was the focus of the plan. The East and West coasts “are not just giving over their whole states to oil,” she added. “At some point, Louisiana has got to get with it and stop handing over our state to the oil industry.” Rolfes said her organization will continue to work toward its goal of no future lease sales. “I’m going to work with reality, and the reality is there is still an opportunity to make sure that they don’t get any,” she said. Drew Caputo, vice president of litigation at environmental law group Earthjustice, called the plan “business as usual” for leasing. “The Biden administration had an opportunity to meet the moment on climate and end new offshore oil leasing in Interior’s five-year program,” Caputo said in a statement. “Instead, its proposal to serve up a bunch of new offshore oil lease sales is a failure of climate leadership and a breach of their climate promises.” Manish Bapna, president and CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said expanding offshore drilling puts coastal environments at risk of “catastrophic blowouts and ongoing harm.” “Oil and gas companies already lease enough of the Gulf to cover half the state of South Carolina. That’s plenty, the industry itself says, to produce for another decade or more,” Bapna said in a statement. “It’s time to invest in cleaner, smarter ways to power our future.” The Gulf is on track for zero lease sales in 2022 after the Interior Department in May canceled two planned sales.

Take your pick, who is right? They both are but the question should be, which plan hurts the environment more. I think we all know the answer to that question.

Let’s fight over the Leases – to lease or not
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