Washington, DC (WVDN) – The U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing to examine federal offshore energy strategy and policies. During the hearing, Chairman Joe Manchin (D-WV), highlighted that, if not for Chairman Manchin’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the Administration would not be holding any offshore oil and gas lease sales until at least 2029. Chairman Manchin also discussed restrictions that improperly targeted oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico related to Rice’s Whale, and ensuring that the Administration will hold the IRA mandated Lease Sale 261 by November 8.
“Even as this Administration was attempting to end federal oil and gas leasing altogether, because of my insistence that the Inflation Reduction Act take a balanced approach to energy security, we are looking at a future that involves at least some continued offshore energy leasing of all types. Before we passed the IRA, it was obvious that the Department of the Interior was slow walking the next Five-Year Program while at the same time canceling already-scheduled Lease Sales. To address that, in the IRA we prohibited Interior from issuing wind and solar leases unless the Department also holds significant oil and gas lease sales, both on- and offshore. As a result, Interior was forced to include oil and gas lease sales in their recently released 2024 to 2029 Leasing Program. To be clear, the new five-year leasing program falls well short of what we should be doing by including only three oil and gas sales. This is barely a quarter of what the Obama administration approved for the last five-year program. But it’s clear we would have gotten exactly zero without the IRA,” said Chairman Manchin.
During the hearing, Chairman Manchin presented a timeline detailing how the Administration’s five-year offshore oil and gas plan will block the ability to issue offshore wind leases for multiple years. Click here to view the timeline.
Chairman Manchin also commented on offshore oil and gas Lease Sale 261, which the Administration attempted to reduce in size by six million acres while imposing restrictions that would only apply to oil and gas vessels, such as ten knot speed limits and prohibiting night travel.
“Lease Sale 261, which was mandated by the IRA, is a good example where implementation is not living up to the intent of the law. Environmental groups sued NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] to impose new restrictions related to the Rice’s whale — but only for oil and gas development in the Gulf — And this administration capitulated in a settlement agreement, bypassing Interior’s normal procedures, adding restrictions, and agreeing to remove 6 million acres from the sale. However, a Federal Judge then determined that removing the acres in this manner would likely be unlawful, so now the administration has delayed the sale and is scrambling to add the 6 million acres back in. This case proves that trying to re-write an energy security law passed by Congress through administrative action is not a winning strategy. Because the reality is, we will get closer to achieving our shared goals — for all types of offshore energy production — if we embrace the balanced approach in the IRA. As ten of my Republican colleagues stated in their Amicus Brief opposing the Lease Sale 261 restrictions: “The IRA was the result of considerable deliberation concerning the economic, energy, environmental, and strategic interests of the United States,” and “the IRA balances diverse, complex, and overlapping considerations including growth and conservation, domestic needs and global positioning, and security and diplomacy.” I couldn’t agree more with my Republican friends on this, and I will continue to do everything in my power to ensure the law is implemented the way it is written in that manner,” said Chairman Manchin.
During the hearing, Ms. Elizabeth Klein, Director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, commented on the Administration’s recently released Five-Year Offshore Oil and Gas Leasing Program and the IRA’s linking of on- and offshore oil and gas leasing to on- and offshore solar and wind leasing.
“The Inflation Reduction Act gave us very clear direction about how we link oil and gas lease sales to the offshore wind program and we’ve proposed the minimum number of sales needed to continue to expand our offshore wind leasing program into the future,” said Ms. Klein.
During the hearing, Chairman Manchin asked Ms. Klein about a pending 5th Circuit decision that could impact Lease Sale 261. The IRA mandated Lease Sale 261 take place by September 30, but due to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s delays, Lease Sale 261 has been rescheduled to November 8.
“Can you help clarify for us if you are in fact committed to holding the sale by November 8?” asked Chairman Manchin.
“All systems are go for the sale on November 8. We don’t see anything in the way of holding that sale,” said Ms. Klein.
Chairman Manchin questioned The Honorable Janet Coit, Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries, about NOAA vessel speed restrictions in the Gulf of Mexico and North Atlantic.
“Can you give me the situation you all have and what your considerations are by looking at the Fiscal 2024 Appropriations bill and provide us with an update on the current state of the vessel speed rule?” asked Chairman Manchin.
“For the final rule, we’ve consistently let people know that we hope to make a decision by the end of the year for the vessel speed rule affecting North Atlantic Right Whales,” said The Honorable Janet Coit.
The hearing featured witnesses from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
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