By Lori LeBlanc, LMOGA Offshore Committee Director for BIC Magazine
Hope comes in all shapes and sizes. Throughout the Obama administration, the oil and gas industry and supporting communities beat the drum for expanded offshore production, knowing America has a real shot at energy independence if given the chance to make use of our own bountiful resources. Unfortunately, that administration’s Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) oil and gas leasing plans fell short of our hopes, keeping 94 percent of America’s OCS waters “off limits” to development.
President Trump gave us new hope this spring, however, in a surprise announcement authorizing the Department of the Interior to reopen and re-evaluate the 2019-2024 Five-Year Lease Plan, starting with a comment period that ended Aug. 17. The re-evaluation process will likely continue over the next year and a half, but we are hopeful grassroots support for OCS expansion can produce real change in the government’s offshore leasing program beginning in 2019.
Louisiana has a long and successful history in offshore oil and natural gas production, and our operators and local communities offer an “on the ground,” real-world perspective on the positive impacts of a safe and responsible oil and gas industry on our economy and environment. Our state proves “we can have it all.” Now is the time for the federal government to give communities and workers across the country a chance to experience this economic engine.
In a letter to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) in August, the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association (LMOGA) strongly recommended the upcoming lease plan not only include existing areas of exploration and development like the central and western Gulf, but also new areas where there has been little or no activity like the mid- and south Atlantic, eastern Gulf and the Pacific. The benefits would be tremendous:
- Energy supply. The U.S. is currently meeting 84 percent of its energy needs with domestic production, and according to a BOEM 2016 estimate, 89.9 billion barrels of oil and 327.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas have yet to be discovered on the OCS. This means decades of oil and natural gas that can be produced domestically, helping us become energy independent.
- Economic impact. A robust offshore oil and natural gas industry has and can provide significant benefits to our local, state and national economies. A 2014 study by economist Dr. Loren C. Scott indicates the offshore industry has a $44 billion annual impact to Louisiana alone, and according to a 2011 study by Wood Mackenzie, developing all of the current off-limit areas in the OCS could add an additional $127 billion in new government revenue by 2020.
- Environment. Louisiana has proven itself to be not only the energy state but also a sportsman’s paradise. The “Rigs to Reefs” program has created some of the best fishing spots in the country by creating artificial reefs out of decommissioned drilling rigs. Louisiana’s commercial fishermen harvest over 2 billion pounds of fish and shellfish annually, and the same coastal areas support offshore energy production and provide habitats for approximately 5 million migratory fowl. Hunting, fishing and birdwatching has amounted to a $3 billion industry, supporting over 25,000 jobs.
- Revenue sharing. As a result of the 2006 Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA), investments by Louisiana’s oil and gas industry in the Gulf will soon fuel coastal restoration and protection projects, with hundreds of millions of dollars from offshore drilling revenue coming to Louisiana and three other Gulf states. GOMESA compensates Gulf states and coastal communities with a long-overdue portion of royalty revenue collected from the OCS in the Gulf.
LMOGA joins many other business groups and local governments along Louisiana’s energy coast in advocating for a Five-Year OCS Lease Plan that continues to allow exploration and production in current OCS leasing areas while also opening more federal waters in the mid- and southern Atlantic, the Pacific and the rest of the eastern Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas investment. We hope President Trump appreciates, as we do, the tremendous value this will bring to American energy security and our American economy. Now is the time for us to secure America’s energy future.