Senator Landrieu has recently challenged the government agency writing the nation’s next 5 year energy exploration plan to expand offshore drilling to federal waters off the East and West coasts and offshore Alaska. Senator Landrieu offered the challenge to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management at a hearing of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held at the Cajundome in Lafayette, Louisiana.
Industry leaders have noted that countries in Central and South America have accelerated offshore drilling and production while the U.S. has restricted such exploration in most of its offshore territories.
Offshore drilling companies claim that opening up acreage in federal waters off the East and West coasts along with the Gulf of Mexico acreage off of Florida’s western coast would create 1 million new offshore maritime jobs by 2020.
Senator Landrieu noted that the current acreage where drilling is allowed amounts to only 2 percent of the country’s Outer Continental Shelf. The Outer Continental Shelf is a vast offshore area that begins 3 miles off the coast of the U.S.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management acknowledged that only about 35 offshore wells have ever been drilled off the East Coast. Only 23 offshore producing wells have been drilled in the Pacific Ocean. Those numbers pale in comparison to the 40,000 offshore wells and 3,500 offshore production platforms situated off the coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico.
Senator Landrieu also criticized the dollar amount of royalty payments that Louisiana and other coastal states received. She noted that land locked oil and gas producing states have always received 50 percent of royalties from the Department of Interior. Louisiana and other gulf coast states now receive payments amounting to only about a third of the royalties from offshore drilling.