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Gulf index still shows oil permits behind

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By Debbie Glover
St. Tammany News

Before oil spill, deep water drilling permits were being issued at a rate of an average of 7 per month. Today, only 4 are being issued on average a month.

Things are not much better for shallow water permits. While an average of 7.3 permits are being issued a month, about 14.7 permits per months were issued before the oil spill.

In addition, the number of days it is taking for a plan to be approved is now 115, compared to the historical average of 61 days. All deep-water plans that include any type of drilling activity must now undergo an environmental assessment process; for those plans requiring them in 2011, the average approval time is 235 days, significantly higher than the overall average approval time. Additionally, in 2011, 37 percent of plans submitted to BOEMRE are being approved, or about half of the historical 73.4 percent approval rate. At a St. Tammany West Chamber of Commerce meeting earlier this year, Sam Giberga, senior vice president and general counsel of Hornbeck Offshore Service said the typical cost of a well is $120 million. The success rates of wells is about 15 percent. “You’ve got to drill a lot wells to get oil,” said Giberga.

“Companies are dying every day,” he said. “Each barrel of oil that is used has to be replaced and it is getting harder and more expensive to replace it.” Giberga said that from the first leasing of the territory to a working, producing drilling rig is about five years. Plans must be approved, testing and explorations are done long before the rig is built. Therefore, even though the statistics that are released show a permit has been issued, this does not mean a rig will suddenly appear and produce oil.

In fact, some of those permits that have been given since the moratorium was declared over last October are permits that are being re-issued from last year, not new wells that can drill that day and oil will flow. Since last October, only four drilling plans have been approved. There is a backlog of plans pending approval for both deepwater and shallow water in exploration and development.

With the new regulations that have been issued by the executive branch, new sources of conflict are arising because of environment assessments that are now required for all permits, spurring environmental groups for the first time regarding drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

There is a lot of confusion over the new regulations. “There exists now a cloud over the industry. Do we need to rebuild existing structure? What kinds of adjustment must be made? Other questions entering the minds of the industry are what’s coming into the future?” asked Giberga. When so much capital is needed prior to realizing any return, companies are asking if it’s worth it.

The lack of drilling is also affecting other industries. “Shutting down rigs has caused a ripple effect,” said Giberga. “There is a web of infrastructure that depends upon this industry, and if the assets leave, they won’t be coming back… There is a direct threat to companies and the country at large.”

Sadly, many states around the country still don’t understand the plight of the industry in the Gulf. For one thing, Giberga confirmed that it is true that other countries are drilling in areas of the Gulf not regulated by the United States. In other words, drills from Mexico, Venezeula and other countries can drill in other parts of the Gulf and could cause a spill due to lack of safety or poor decisions that would still effect the United States’ coastlines, not to mention the economy.

The affects of the new regulations on permits and plans and the long range energy economy will be seen for many years to come. Meanwhile, the permits are being approved—very slowly.

Source

Offshore Energy Leases Fall from $10 Billion to Zero Under Team Obama

Even as the Obama administration postures on behalf of deficit reduction and job creation, it continues to advance policies that undermine energy production in the Gulf region and lower federal revenue, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) has pointed out in his correspondence with top officials in Washington D.C.

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Most recently, in a letter addressed to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) Director Michael Bromwich, warned of a severe revenue fall off attached to declining energy lease sales.

“Under the Obama administration’s management, revenue from our offshore lease sale program has gone from $10 billion to nothing in just three years,” Vitter said. “Revenue cannot be generated from sales that do not happen, and jobs cannot be created on leases that private industry cannot acquire. We’re in a severe fiscal crisis and we’re facing significant economic challenges related to job creation, yet the administration continues to neglect our offshore resources.”

In fiscal year (FY) 2008 revenue from bonus bids on offshore leases was approximately $10 billion, but for FY 2011 that amount is down to $0, according to Vitter’s letter. “Revenue cannot be generated from lease sales that do not occur, and jobs cannot be created on leases that private industry cannot acquire,” he continued.

Unless, the administration reverses course, Vitter anticipates “long-term economic impacts that include lose jobs, lost royalties and lost rental fees.” Companies will be reticent to own a lease if they cannot be reasonably certain that exploration plans or permits will be approved, he added.

Daniel Kish, senior vice-president of policy with the Institute for Energy Research (IER), sees an “opportunity cost” for the Gulf region that may not be recaptured anytime soon.

“The Obama administration has virtually put a stop to energy development in federal waters,” Kish said. “This is like planting seeds, if the government won’t allow to the seeds to be planted now, they are preventing future production. We are talking about a lost generation of economic activity.”

In September, President Obama rolled out a new deficit reduction plan built around income tax increases for higher income Americans.

“We can’t just cut our way out of this hole,” Obama said during a speech at the White House.  “It’s going to take a balanced approach. If we’re going to make spending cuts … then it’s only right that we ask everyone to pay their fair share.” Obama also said that would veto any deficit reduction plan that includes only spending cuts and no tax increases.

“When you include the $1 trillion in cuts I’ve already signed into law, these would be among the biggest cuts in spending in our history,” Obama continued. “But they’ve got to be part of a larger plan that’s balanced –- a plan that asks the most fortunate among us to pay their fair share, just like everybody else. And that’s why this plan eliminates tax loopholes that primarily go to the wealthiest taxpayers and biggest corporations –- tax breaks that small businesses and middle-class families don’t get.”

But the slow pace of permits for oil drilling also contributes to the deficit, Vitter explained in a previous letter to administration officials. The right mix of policies could unleash America’s abundant supply of domestic energy resources, which would in turn boost revenue into the federal treasury, Vitter argued.

“I share the frustration of Louisianians and Gulf Coast residents with the disparity between  the president’s rhetoric and the Interior Department’s actions,” Vitter said. “The administration’s policies have led to massive deficits and job losses, especially in Louisiana, and it’s time for the president to stop lecturing about job creation and allow our energy industry workers to get back to work.”

Without a higher volume of additional permits, the number of active oil rigs will continue to decline in the Gulf, Vitter warned in one of his earlier letters. The 2011 permitting rate is well below the historical average, Vitter observed.

As of early September, “there were 19 floating units operating in the Gulf, up from four in the third quarter of 2010, but down from the average of 28 recorded in the 2007-2009 period,” he wrote.

Up to 20 oil rigs could leave the Gulf, in addition to 11 that have already left, since the administration’s moratorium on deepwater oil and gas drilling went into effect in May 2010, according to a new report.

The future could still be there for the Gulf coast with the right mix of policies, the American Petroleum Institute (AEP) has concluded in a new study.

If U.S. companies were permitted to drill with fewer regulatory hurdles, they could boost government revenues by $800 billion and generate over a million new jobs by 2030, according to API.

But even with a change in administration heading into 2013, the Gulf region is not likely to experience a robust recovery in the short term, Kish, the IER policy expert, warns.

“It will take time to correct these policies,” Kish said. “The Obama administration has shifted the entire ground on which the Gulf of Mexico operates.”

by Kevin Mooney

Original Article

Vitter to Feds: Lower Deficit by Increasing Energy Production

Energy lease sales drop to zero as permitting remains slow under Obama administration

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Even as the Obama administration postures on behalf of deficit reduction and job creation, it continues to advance policies that undermine energy production in the Gulf region and lower federal revenue, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) has pointed out in his correspondence with top officials in Washington D.C.

In a letter addressed to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) Director Michael Bromwich, Vitter warned of a severe revenue falloff attached to declining energy lease sales.

“Under the Obama administration’s management, revenue from our offshore lease sale program has gone from $10 billion to nothing in just three years,” Vitter said. “Revenue cannot be generated from sales that do not happen, and jobs cannot be created on leases that private industry cannot acquire. We’re in a severe fiscal crisis and we’re facing significant economic challenges related to job creation, yet the administration continues to neglect our offshore resources.”

In fiscal year (FY) 2008 revenue from bonus bids on offshore leases was approximately $10 billion, but for FY 2011 that amount is down to zero, according to Vitter’s letter.

Unless the administration reverses course, Vitter anticipates “long-term economic impacts that include lost jobs, lost royalties and lost rental fees.” Companies will be reticent to own a lease if they cannot be reasonably certain that exploration plans or permits will be approved, he added.

Daniel Kish, senior vice-president of policy with the Institute for Energy Research (IER), sees an “opportunity cost” for the Gulf region that may not be recaptured anytime soon.

“The Obama administration has virtually put a stop to energy development in federal waters,” Kish said. “This is like planting seeds, if the government won’t allow to the seeds to be planted now, they are preventing future production. We are talking about a lost generation of economic activity.”

In September, President Obama rolled out a new deficit reduction plan built around income tax increases for higher income Americans.

“We can’t just cut our way out of this hole,” Obama said during a speech at the White House.  “It’s going to take a balanced approach. If we’re going to make spending cuts … then it’s only right that we ask everyone to pay their fair share.” Obama also said that would veto any deficit reduction plan that includes only spending cuts and no tax increases.

“When you include the $1 trillion in cuts I’ve already signed into law, these would be among the biggest cuts in spending in our history,” Obama continued. “But they’ve got to be part of a larger plan that’s balanced –- a plan that asks the most fortunate among us to pay their fair share, just like everybody else. And that’s why this plan eliminates tax loopholes that primarily go to the wealthiest taxpayers and biggest corporations –- tax breaks that small businesses and middle-class families don’t get.”

But the slow pace of permits for oil drilling also contributes to the deficit, Vitter explained in a previous letter to administration officials. The right mix of policies could unleash America’s abundant supply of domestic energy resources, which would in turn boost revenue into the federal treasury, Vitter argued.

“I share the frustration of Louisianians and Gulf Coast residents with the disparity between  the president’s rhetoric and the Interior Department’s actions,” Vitter said. “The administration’s policies have led to massive deficits and job losses, especially in Louisiana, and it’s time for the president to stop lecturing about job creation and allow our energy industry workers to get back to work.”

Without a higher volume of additional permits, the number of active oil rigs will continue to decline in the Gulf, Vitter warned in one of his earlier letters. The 2011 permitting rate is well below the historical average, Vitter observed.

As of early September, “there were 19 floating units operating in the Gulf, up from four in the third quarter of 2010, but down from the average of 28 recorded in the 2007-2009 period,” he wrote.

Up to 20 oil rigs could leave the Gulf, in addition to 11 that have already left, since the administration’s moratorium on deepwater oil and gas drilling went into effect in May 2010, the Pelican Institute has reported.

The future could still be bright for the Gulf coast with the right mix of policies, the American Petroleum Institute (API) has concluded in a new study.

If U.S. companies were permitted to drill with fewer regulatory hurdles, they could boost government revenues by $800 billion and generate over a million new jobs by 2030, according to API.
But even with a change in administration heading into 2013, the Gulf region is not likely to experience a robust recovery in the short term, Kish, the IER policy expert, warns.

“It will take time to correct these policies,” Kish said. “The Obama administration has shifted the entire ground on which the Gulf of Mexico operates.”

Kevin Mooney is an investigative reporter with the Pelican Institute for Public Policy. He can be reached at kmooney@pelicaninstitute.org and followed on Twitter.

Original Article

U.S. Legislators Want Repsol to Leave Cuba

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Thirty-four U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday asked the Spanish oil company Repsol to keep out of Cuban waters, saying the firm’s pending offshore drilling plans would support the Castro regime and “bankroll the apparatus that violently crushes dissent.”

“The decaying Cuban regime is desperately reaching out for an economic lifeline, and it appears to have found a willing partner in Repsol to come to its rescue,” said the author of a letter to the company, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla.

The company says it could begin exploratory drilling as soon as December, a prospect that has the Florida and federal governments scrambling to develop contingency plans for a spill even as many Floridians have fresh memories of last year’s BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

“We are working on spill response and we’re working with the federal, state and local agencies – very closely,” said U.S. Coast Guard spokeswoman Marilyn Fajardo.

The possibility of exploratory drilling also has federal agencies grappling with the international and political implications on the U.S. embargo with Cuba.

Ros-Lehtinen, the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, warned Repsol in the letter that any drilling operations it conducts in Cuban waters could provide direct financial benefit to the Castro dictatorship. The company’s partnership with the Cuban regime also could violate U.S. law and may run afoul of pending legislation in Congress, she said.

Recently, representatives from several industry and environmental groups traveled to Cuba to check in on the country’s offshore plans. They included Lee Hunt, the chief executive of the International Association of Drilling Contractors, and William Reilly, a former EPA administrator and co-chairman of the White House task force that investigated last year’s BP oil spill.

The group also included Richard Sears, the former vice president of deepwater drilling for Shell, and Dan Whittle, an attorney for the Environmental Defense Fund.

Repsol spokesman Kristian Rix said the company had no comment on the letter from Congress.

The company, which has U.S. operations that include leases in the Arctic waters off the northern Alaska coastline, is in the process of bringing a drilling rig to Cuba.

Repsol in January 2010 signed a lease contract with the Italian energy company Saipem for drilling equipment. Repsol on its website describes the equipment as complying “with all the technical requirements and all the limitations established by the U.S. administration for drilling operations in Cuba.”

The Republican-led House Natural Resources Committee had scheduled a hearing on drilling in Cuban waters for last week, but it was postponed after Obama administration officials said they weren’t yet prepared to outline their overall response to offshore drilling in Cuba.

Some Republican members of the committee have complained in the past about Cuba’s ability to drill so close to the U.S. coastline even as a 125-mile buffer zone remains in place in U.S. waters off of most of Florida’s coast.

The congressional letter drew bipartisan support, with Florida Republican Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, David Rivera, Tom Rooney, Vern Buchanan, Dennis Ross and Sandy Adams signing onto it; they were joined by Democrats Ted Deutch, Frederica Wilson and Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Also signing the letter were: Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind.; Rep. Steve Austria, R-Ohio; Rep. Joe Baca, D-Calif.; Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga.; Rep. John Carter, R-Texas; Rep. John Barrow, D-Ga.; Rep. Robert Andrews, D-N.J.; Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore.; Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa.; Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash.; Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash.; Rep. Daniel Lipinski, D-Ill.; Rep. Heath Shuler, D-N.C.; Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich.; Del. Pedro Pierluisi, D-Puerto Rico; Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J.; Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Ohio; Rep. Brian Higgins, D-N.Y.; Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, R-Mich.; Rep. Steven Rothman, D-N.J.; Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y.; Rep. Jason Altmire, D-Pa.; and Rep. Edward Royce, R-Calif.

By Erika Bolstad (Miami Herald)

Original Article

Obama’s Interior Chokehold on America

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By Jim Adams

How could a bureaucratic bottleneck in the Gulf of Mexico cost the U.S. economy nearly $20 billion and wipe out hundreds of thousands of jobs as far away as Ohio, Pennsylvania and California? Unfortunately, with this White House administration, anything is possible.

President Obama recently announced yet another jobs initiative — knowing all the while that one very simple action on his part would indeed create new jobs, infuse federal and state budgets with billions of dollars, and make us less reliant on imports. But that didn’t happen.

On Oct. 12, 2010, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said, “We’re open for business,” signaling that drilling for new oil in the Gulf of Mexico would resume. But, Mr. Salazar has an odd interpretation of the words “open for business.”

Eleven months after the Secretary’s announcement, drilling in the Gulf remains near a standstill. The government has used every stall tactic imaginable to delay permits and other administrative approvals that would help our economy and put hundreds of thousands back to work.

The Gulf Economic Survival Team (GEST) commissioned IHS Global Insight and IHS CERA Inc. to quantify the economic impacts of the government’s slow pace of permitting since lifting the moratorium. Their study revealed that the number of exploration plans and permit applications are on par with levels in 2009 through early 2010, clearly signaling the industry’s intent to return to full operations. Industry also has invested billions of dollars in well containment technology to stop a Macondo-size spill if it ever became necessary. So safety can no longer be blamed for permitting delays.

That leaves the Department of the Interior. The IHS study points to a backlog of project approvals. Despite their earnest efforts to process the growing stack of applications, regulators on the front line don’t appear to understand the new regulations that Washington D.C. has foisted upon them.  The blame for this falls squarely on the shoulders of this Administration’s politically appointed bureaucrats, who know nothing of the complexities involved in safe and environmentally sound deepwater drilling. Naturally, they don’t let expertise or experience get in the way, they just pile on more regulations.

This politically minded bureaucracy comes at tremendous cost.

The number of people who depend on a thriving oil and gas industry is staggering. Another research study, by Quest Offshore Resources, found that energy production in the Gulf of Mexico employed 240,000 Americans in 2010. And not all of them worked directly for the oil and natural gas industry, as oil rigs need everything from steel pipes to IT support.

What’s more, the effects of the government’s continued foot-dragging isn’t limited to the Gulf. The study’s authors found that for every industry job tied to operations in the Gulf, three non-industry jobs are reliant in sectors such as manufacturing, construction and real estate. And for every three Gulf Coast workers, there’s one American employed elsewhere — in New York, Michigan, California, Oklahoma, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois and nearly every other state.

The Quest study also came to a distressing conclusion: Had the Administration truly lifted the moratorium last October, the industry would have created nearly 190,000 more jobs in the U.S. over a three-year period. That would have meant 8,500 additional jobs in California, where unemployment currently flirts with 12 percent; 10,000 more jobs in Pennsylvania and Ohio, manufacturing-dependent states; and in the President’s home state of Illinois, a total of 3,000 jobs.

Keeping Americans out of work. Denying struggling state and local governments billions of dollars in additional revenue. Making us more dependent on energy imports. Is this the change Mr. Obama says we can believe in?

Or can we only believe in shovel-ready jobs if they’re created by the alternative energy industry? Would we even be having this yearlong debate if solar energy producers contributed more than $12 billion a year in tax and royalty revenues to state and federal treasuries? What if hydro energy producers accounted for $44 billion of GDP? The only thing separating 190,000 Americans from a paycheck and states from more than $7 billion in local taxes is obvious: Political will.

President Obama talks about job growth, stimulating the economy and investing in innovation that will lead the way forward, but turns a blind eye to an obvious, if not practical, solution. Mr President: Lift your de facto moratorium on energy exploration in the Gulf of Mexico; business will safely do the rest.

Jim Adams is president and CEO of Offshore Marine Service Association, which represents the owners and operators of U.S. flag offshore service vessels and the shipyards and other businesses that support that industry.

Original Article

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