There were some fun moments today at the House Natural Resources Committee hearing when Interior Secretary Ken Salazar took to the witness chair. Rep. Jeff Landry (R-New Iberia) took Salazar to task for the Interior Department’s puzzling energy policies in the Gulf of Mexico – policies Salazar described as “robust.”
After a blistering opening speech (transcript included below), Landry’s questioning of Salazar was less than friendly…
This came after a set of opening remarks which fairly accurately conveyed the attitude of most of the people of South Louisiana…
“Thank you, Chairman Hastings, for calling this hearing today and for continuing a policy of responsible and meaningful oversight. I also thank the Chairman for giving me the opportunity to highlight some of the many criticisms that my constituents have had with the Department of Interior and the current negative effects of the Interior’s failed policies.
I would also like to thank Secretary Salazar for coming before this committee to provide answers that the residents of the Gulf Coast are yearning for and rightfully deserve.
There are two increases that are of great concern to me. As of today, gas prices have increased 75 percent over the last 26 months. Concurrently, the Obama Administration has requested a whopping $358.4 million to fund the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) for fiscal year 2012. This request is an increase of $119.3 million in the last two years.
I would argue that these increases are related; when you think about it, the relationship is simple. The more we spend on government red tape, duplicative inspections, and bureaucratic delays; the less energy we produce domestically and the more money we pay for energy.
Not only is this a bad economic policy, it runs directly counter to what the American people have asked for. The American people want less spending, more jobs, and a smaller government. However, this Administration and its Department of Interior have failed to listen to the will of the people. At a time when the American people are being forced to cut back significantly, the President wants to increase BOEMRE’s budget by 50 percent above the 2010 enacted level. This is irresponsible and wasteful.
Furthermore – by failing to address the economic factors of the President’s offshore drilling moratorium – the Administration has sent thousands of Americans to the unemployment line or overseas for work. And the government is losing millions in oil revenue to the United States Treasury because the Department of Interior is intentionally refusing to issue timely permits not only for deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico but on the shelf as well.
The Administration’s increase in the size and scope of government by calling for new ‘safety’ agencies to regulate the offshore drilling industry is, again, contrary to the American people’s desires. Not only does reorganizing the former Minerals Management Service (MMS) and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement cost the taxpayers millions of dollars, but it also adds more government bureaucrats to do something the industry has taken up itself.
Companies in the Gulf of Mexico have made unprecedented improvements in their ability to prevent, contain, and respond to any potential spills. With the Marine Well Containment and the Helix systems in place and ready to deploy if ever needed, I believe the oil and gas industry has met or exceeded every safety benchmark that the Department of Interior has requested.
Recently, a federal judge ruled the Department of Interior in contempt of court for continuously dragging its feet on issuing permits post Secretary Salazar’s lifting of the deepwater drilling moratorium in October. Despite the judge’s order, only one deepwater permit has been granted. This is not a new permit; this is an existing permit that was suspended and has been re-authorized to do work. This is unacceptable and does nothing to lower gas prices.
The Obama Administration’s refusal to enact a responsible, affordable domestic energy policy does not wean us off foreign oil. Because the Administration is forcing us to use foreign oil, we are continuously paying more for gas and being held captive to conflicts in North Africa and the Middle East. The increase of prices at the pump are forcing small businesses to decide to between fuel for cars or new workers.
In short, the hard-working people of the Gulf Coast are still not back to their jobs. American families continue to pay more at the pump. And we remain dependent on foreign oil.
So, I will ask tough but fair questions today and continue to fight for the American people.”