Cornyn Fights to Protect Gulf Coast Jobs

I joined Senators David Vitter (R-LA), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), and others in sending a letter to Senators Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI) and Thad Cochran (R-MS), Chairman and Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations, urging them to protect Gulf Coast jobs by removing a provision in a House-passed bill that would further delay the approval of new offshore oil and gas exploration plans. The full text of the letter is below:

Dear Chairman Inouye and Ranking Member Cochran:

We write to draw your immediate attention to a matter of the utmost importance for our nation’s energy security, economy and workforce. In numerous drafts of the Continuing Resolution (CR), including a version which was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, the administration inserted rider language which would make significant policy changes to the offshore production of domestic energy. As the Senate considers the House passed CR, we request you support our action to remove this job-killing provision.

Yesterday, the House passed its CR, which contained a section which would allow the Department of the Interior (DOI) to extend the current review period for offshore exploration plans from 30 to 90 days. Currently, the DOI has failed to approve any new deepwater offshore permits, as thousands of workers in the Gulf of Mexico are at risk of losing their jobs. Allowing the DOI to continue to drag its feet in the permitting process is unacceptable and will result in the loss of thousands of jobs, especially in the Gulf of Mexico.

Another concern of ours is that this language has not been analyzed and scrutinized by the appropriate Senate committees. Such a proper review would allow an understanding of whether this provision will result in Environmental Assessments (EA) on every single permit to drill. This would open the door for environmental lawsuits under the National Environmental Policy Act by the environmental community on every application that could create jobs and produce domestic offshore energy. Further, the federal government could pay the environmental community under the Equal Access to Justice Act and through the Judgment Fund to file lawsuits with taxpayer money that will put taxpayers out of work. This would affect all future leases.

Additionally, the administration could be forcing a legislative material breach of contract on all current leaseholders. The Supreme Court in 2000 said of a similar change in federal law: "the new statute prevented the Government from keeping that promise. The breach substantially impaired the value of the contracts...and therefore the Government must give the companies their money back." The DOI is in a predicament which may already lead to litigation, but this language would put the entire failure of the offshore permitting program and the legal/financial responsibility on the American taxpayer with the fault on Congress.

During this time of record levels of unemployment, we must not stand down while a job-killing provision should receive more scrutiny, not less. Failure to remove this rider from the CR will devastate an entire region’s workforce, and will make us more dependent on foreign sources of energy. We ask you to take the appropriate action to remove Section 2724 from the CR.

Sincerely,

David Vitter, United States Senator
Kay Bailey Hutchison, United States Senator
John Cornyn, United States Senator
Jeff Sessions, United States Senator
Roger Wicker, United States Senator

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