Letter Supporting H.R. 1229, the "Putting the Gulf Back to Work Act," H.R. 1230, the "Restarting American Offshore Leasing Now Act," and H.R. 1231, the "Reversing President Obama's Offshore Moratorium Act"

Monday, May 2, 2011 - 8:00pm

THE MEMBERS OF THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than three million businesses and organizations of every size, sector, and region, supports H.R. 1229, the “Putting the Gulf Back to Work Act,” H.R. 1230, the “Restarting American Offshore Leasing Now Act,” and H.R. 1231, the “Reversing President Obama’s Offshore Moratorium Act.” This suite of bills would bring a much-needed end to the de facto moratorium on offshore oil and gas exploration and could create tens of thousands of jobs, many for American oil and gas employees who have lost their jobs due to the moratorium.

In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010, the Department of the Interior instituted a six-month moratorium on all new deep-water drilling in the Gulf or Pacific. It also took a series of steps to cancel or delay indefinitely all other offshore oil and gas exploration activities (including shallow water exploration). Though the Gulf moratorium has now been lifted, little progress has been made to restart the majority of these operations. The Department’s unofficial policy of deliberate inaction is at odds with the will of the American people: An April 2011 poll conducted by Rasmussen Reports revealed that two out of every three voters (67 percent) now support offshore oil exploration.

The Department of the Interior’s purposeful delay has had severe economic consequences. Seahawk Drilling—and its 500 employees—filed for bankruptcy protection.Twelve  offshore rigs have left the Gulf for the waters of other nations, taking with them thousands of American jobs. The Administration itself suggested its official moratorium would cost some 12,000 jobs and a subsequent study by Dr. Joseph Mason, Chair of Banking at Louisiana State University, concluded that the de facto moratorium could ultimately cost nearly 25,000 jobs in the region and 35,000 nation-wide.

H.R. 1229, H.R. 1230, and H.R. 1231 are a major step in the right direction for the nation’s energy policy. These bills would ensure that offshore exploration permit decisions are more transparent and made in a reasonable time, legal challenges are heard fairly and expeditiously, and the Department would no longer be allowed to slow-walk the offshore leasing process. They would help ease the nation’s dependence on foreign oil, and—most importantly— put Americans back to work. In testimony before the Committee, Dr. Mason estimated that the bills could have “substantial job benefits,” creating up to 250,000 short-term jobs during the exploration and development phase and 1.2 million long-term jobs during the production phase.

The average price for a gallon of gasoline is now hovering close to $4. The U.S. Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy recently launched a Web site, www.voicesforaffordableenergy.com, which features the stories of businesses and consumers
who are strapped by soaring prices. In responding to this critical issue for American consumers, Congress should take the long-term step of increasing domestic oil and gas production as set forth in H.R. 1229, 1230 and 1231. Doing so would create jobs while enhancing the nation’s energy security, a “win-win” by any measure.

Sincerely,
R. Bruce Josten