UPDATED – Plenty O’ Nothin’ From Interior Following Landrieu OMB Surrender

UPDATE: Rep. Scalise and Sen. Vitter took turns hammering Interior Secretary Salazar and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management head Michael Bromwich following today’s dud…

SCALISE: “We’re tired of Secretary Salazar and Director Bromwich coming down to Louisiana and paying lip service to our local workers and industry leaders while playing shell games with the permitting process. All we are seeing on the ground is an ever-changing rulemaking process that undermines safety while maintaining a ‘permitorium’ in the Gulf. While the Administration continues to play shell games with the offshore permitting process, their tactic of ‘rules-du-jour’ continues to prolong the uncertainty that threatens thousands of jobs for Louisiana families and jeopardizes America’s energy security.

“Secretary Salazar must stop paying lip service about lifting the drilling moratorium and start taking real action to address the ongoing delays and uncertainty caused by his department. I will continue pushing the administration to establish clear guidelines for swift approval of drilling permits before these delays cost thousands more Louisiana workers their jobs.”

VITTER: “All of us from Louisiana hoped to hear some new policy, some permitting breakthrough, maybe a handful of new permits approved.  But we heard none of that – absolutely nothing.

“I told the secretary that this permit logjam had to change – this vital industry is virtually shut down.  And I highlighted, along with industry representatives, the key issues that the Obama administration has to address to put people back to work.”

ORIGINAL: A release by the Department of Interior today on the subject of offshore drilling permits offers rather less evidence of a speedy return to health for the oil and gas industry than we were promised when Sen. Mary Landrieu lifted her hold on the nomination of Jake Lew for OMB director…

Salazar, Bromwich Encouraged by Progress of Operators to Comply with Higher Offshore Oil and Gas Standards

Houma, LA — At a meeting today with representatives of the oil and gas industry, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Assistant Secretary Tom Strickland, and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) Director Michael R. Bromwich discussed the implementation of reforms that are raising the bar for safety and environmental protection in oil and gas operations on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).

“Oil and gas resources from the Gulf of Mexico are – and will remain – important components of our nation’s energy portfolio, but we must ensure that they are being developed safely and responsibly,” said Secretary Salazar. “I am encouraged that operators are moving quickly to comply with the higher standards for safety and environmental protection that we have set. We will continue to work with the industry and stakeholders to provide certainty and ensure that everyone understands the rules of the road.”

“Since June, BOEMRE has been in frequent communication with representatives from the oil and gas industry and the shallow water drilling coalition regarding shallow water drilling permits,” said Director Browmich. “Our ongoing discussions underline our commitment to working with industry to clarify any confusion in the federal regulations. BOEMRE is working as expeditiously as is safely possible on processing shallow and deep water permits.”

Salazar, Strickland, and Bromwich told oil and gas industry representatives that BOEMRE will continue to work as expeditiously as is safely possible to review drilling permits under new and existing rules and regulations.

As of today, BOEMRE has approved 16 new shallow water applications for permits to drill (APDs) and 48 revised applications for permits for existing wells submitted since June 8. The revised applications BOEMRE has approved included compliance information related to the drilling safety NTL. There currently are four pending applications for APDs for new wells and zero pending for revised permits for existing wells.

BOEMRE has reallocated approximately 20 personnel internally and across the Bureau’s regions to assist with the review and processing of permits in the Gulf of Mexico on an interim basis. BOEMRE is awaiting congressional action on the President’s FY 2011 budget amendment, which includes funding for the hiring of 24 full time employees – including engineers, geologists, and other professionals – who would be devoted to permitting, as well as training and information technology improvements to enhance the efficiency of the permitting process.

Following Director Bromwich’s recent five-campus recruitment tour of engineering programs in Louisiana and Texas, BOEMRE received 555 applications for approximately 30 petroleum engineering positions, 30 inspector positions, and 20 summer internships.

“People are responding to our call to public service. They understand the importance of our mission and want to be part of it — but we need to have sufficient resources to continue building our workforce. That will benefit both the public and the oil and gas operators who want their permit applications to be processed as quickly as possible,” said Director Bromwich.

In other words, only two permits have been issued for shallow-water drilling in the past two weeks and if any have been issued for deepwater drilling since the first one went out last week Interior isn’t bragging about it.

This doesn’t particularly suggest the kind of rapid progress Landrieu advertised was coming when she announced last week she was lifting her hold on Lew’s nomination.

Mary didn’t get rolled by the White House, did she? We sure hope not.



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