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    GEST meets with Salazar – frustrated with lack of policy decisions to end permit delays

    News // November 26, 2010

    Gulf Economic Survival Team (GEST) Executive Director Lori LeBlanc along with Lt Governor Scott Angelle, Senator David Vitter, Congressman Landry and several other members of the offshore industry met with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in Houma earlier this week to discuss ongoing federal permitting delays that continue to result in economic hardships for the men and women along the Gulf Coast who service the oil and gas industry.
     
    The meeting with industry officials was a result of a commitment Salazar made to US Senator Mary Landrieu as she lifted her hold last week on the appointment of Jacob Lew to head the White House Office of Management and Budget.
     
    “While we had high expectations of this meeting we were severely disappointed that Secretary Salazar did not provide definitive policy decisions that will end the drilling permitting bottlenecks, resume drilling of the 33 deepwater rigs subject to the moratorium, and get our men and women along the Gulf Coast back to work fueling America,” said LeBlanc.
     
    “Secretary Salazar stated that they are proceeding with a sense of urgency to resume oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of Mexico; however, this urgency has not been reflected in the agency’s actions. All we have seen is an inability to approve permits and plans and an inability to develop sensible solutions to the permitting delays,” continued LeBlanc.
     
    BOEM Director Michael Bromwich addressed the risk-based tiering proposal that GEST and the Shallow Water Energy Security Coalition presented to him in September in order to calibrate the permit review process to the risk of the well. Director Bromwich indicated that BOEM has taken the proposal into consideration and they have approved a tiering review approach for only gas wells in the shallow waters. He stated that a tiering review approach for oil wells would be forthcoming. 
     
    “It has been two months since we presented this proposal and BOEM has still only come up with a solution for shallow water gas wells. These are the wells that pose that least amount of risk and this clearly is not proceeding with a sense of urgency that is necessary to get the industry back to work.”
     
    GEST said Secretary Salazar’s only promise came in the form of hosting another meeting in December with an industry assembled task force to continue the discussions on the permitting issues. 
     
    “We will take them up on another meeting in early December and continue to push for clarity, coordination and a commitment to find solutions to the permitting delays. Lt Governor Scott Angelle’s letter to Bromwich on November 18 clearly identifies these outstanding issues and we will continue to facilitate the dialogue to resolve these issues,” said LeBlanc.
     
    Industry representatives also requested a timeline on when the 33 deepwater rigs that were subject to the moratorium will be able to commence operations, noting that the strategic deepwater assets are quickly leaving the Gulf and more than likely will not return.  To this request, Salazar indicated that he will take the issue under consideration without elaborating on a potential solution.
     
    “We sincerely appreciate Senator Landrieu for arranging this meeting today and Senator Vitter and Lt Governor Scott Angelle for attending the meeting.  Both Senators and our Lt Governor have been an unrelenting advocate for the men and women of our coastal communities who work in support of our offshore oil and gas industry. We thank them for their efforts to end the drilling permitting bottlenecks and save American jobs,” LeBlanc said.
     
    Sixteen permits for new wells have been issued in the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico since the beginning of June and no new deepwater permits have been issued that were subject to the moratorium. 

    While Bromwich indicated that only seven permits are pending, the BOEM web site indicates that a much higher number of exploration and development plans are also pending in the shallow and deepwater Gulf of Mexico.
     
    “Many of the men and women who work hard to produce the energy to fuel this great country have seen their hours and wages reduced, have had to relocate overseas, and many went from paychecks to pink slips. They deserve the full attention and urgency of our federal government to save their livelihoods,” LeBlanc concluded.
     

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