Today, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), Chairman of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee, pushed for a vote on his amendment to the Keystone XL Pipeline Act, which would change the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) 5-year leasing program from 2015 through 2020 to open more areas off the East and West Coasts for exploration. Currently, offshore drilling leases are only allowed in parts of the Gulf of Mexico and offshore in parts of Alaska. It would also increase federal offshore revenue sharing for energy producing states. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) is an original co-sponsor of the amendment.
“There needs to be an open relationship between the federal government and energy producing States if we are going to successfully embrace the energy renaissance facing us. Yet under President Obama’s leadership, the federal government has pretty much shut down natural gas production on federal lands and restricted access to offshore resources, which in turn hurts local small businesses,” said Vitter. “My amendment should also attract some Democrats who are in favor of increasing OCS access to areas that are currently off limits, like Virginia.”
“The more money Louisiana receives from offshore oil and gas production, the more we can restore and protect our coasts. We cannot let Louisiana’s maritime, shipping, energy and construction jobs be threatened by coastal erosion,” said Cassidy. “I introduced and passed several amendments in the U.S. House of Representatives that would provide billions for coastal restoration. This will help grow jobs and protect families from future storm surge. I look forward to continuing this important effort in the Senate.”
Vitter cited previous support from both Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) to allow drilling off the coast of Virginia. Last Congress, the Senators sponsored the Virginia Outer Continental Shelf Energy Production Act of 2013.
“I have long advocated for additional exploration and the responsible production of domestic energy resources off of Virginia’s coast,” said Warner in May 2013 press release.
“Virginia is well positioned to be a national leader in offshore energy exploration,” Kaine said in the same release.
Earlier this month, Vitter introduced targeted bills to improve the United States energy economy and use of domestic resources, including an amendment to return to the previous five-year offshore leasing plan scheduled before President Obama was elected. The plan would open up nearly all of the outer continental shelf (OCS) for lease sales. The Administration’s current offshore plan keeps 85 percent of offshore areas closed.
Vitter is the original co-sponsor of the legislation pending approval in the Senate and also the first member of the Senate to introduce legislation to expedite the Keystone XL pipeline in 2011. The Keystone XL pipeline is expected to carry 1,000,000 barrels of North American oil supplies per day to U.S. refineries. Its construction will create over 20,000 direct jobs and over 100,000 indirect jobs.