This afternoon, the Department of Interior issued a deepwater permit to ATP Oil & Gas Corp. to resume drilling 90 miles south of Venice, Louisiana. The project was put on hold by the drilling moratorium. Although this is a good step forward by the Interior, the permitting process is still slow and more permits need to be issued. During a time when the price of gas at the pump continues to rise, companies waiting for permits should be allowed to go back to drill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Currently, a number of companies are keeping their rigs “warm” by continuing to pay for their leases and maintaining a skeletal group of workers so that they can immediately return to drilling when they receive their permits from Interior. These companies can incur costs up to $1 million a day while their rigs sit idle.
Offshore drilling is a significant part of the U.S. economy. As Scott Angelle, Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, noted in his testimony this week, one third of our nation’s domestic production comes from the Gulf, and nearly 90% of that production is from deepwater drilling. Furthermore, drilling in the Gulf directly impacts nearly 16,000 companies and 153,000 employees.
Although the Interior is on the right track by issuing its third permit, this will not address those jobs that are put at risk and the slowdown of oil and gas production. The Interior needs to streamline its permitting process and to issue permits more quickly. The U.S. is still struggling with a recovering economy with high unemployment. Furthermore, with the unrest in the Middle East that is causing even higher prices at the pumps, the Interior needs to be more efficient in issuing permits that will boost our domestic production of oil and gas and put people in the region back to work.