Gulf of Mexico drilling expansion divides U.S. House panel along party lines


While the Biden administration’s decision to scrap new oil and gas leases remains in shaky legal territory, Democrats and Republicans on a U.S. House panel were in deep disagreement over the merits of the new drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

Democrats on the House Natural Resources, Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee, including Chairman Alan Lowenthal of California, said curtailing energy development off the Gulf Coast was a way to reduce fossil fuel emissions.

Republicans, including leading member Pete Stauber of Minnesota and Garret Graves of southern Louisiana, responded that cutting domestic production would not significantly reduce global emissions because demand would be met by other sources.

On his first day in office, President Joe Biden suspended new leases both offshore and on federal lands. U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty blocked the break in a June ruling. The administration complied with Doughty’s order and held a lease sale in November that provided 1.7 million acres of new lease rights in the Gulf of Mexico.

The November lease sale showed that “the administration has yet to muster the political courage” to deal with climate change, Lowenthal said, calling on Biden to do more to reduce emissions.

“While the administration has taken many positive steps and is moving in a positive direction, good is not enough,” Lowenthal said. “Congress and the Biden administration must do more to ensure the management of our public waters aligns with the commitment to reduce emissions.”

Drilling in the gulf has effects beyond climate, affecting the health and safety of nearby residents, said Kristina Dahl, a senior climatologist with advocacy group Union of Concerned Scientists.

“The siting of even more drilling infrastructure in the Gulf could impose additional health problems on residents living nearby suffering from the production of fossil fuel facilities,” Dahl said.

The Louisiana coast is also more directly impacted by climate change than other communities, she added. Sea levels are rising faster along the Louisiana coast than “almost anywhere else in the world,” Dahl said.

Beverly L. Wright, executive director of the New Orleans-based Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, described the negative consequences that Gulf energy production has caused in black communities, including erosion, covered pipes oil and “massive amounts of toxic pollution” oil production.

“I have seen firsthand the effects of climate change, environmental racism and policies that favor the oil and gas industry at the expense of the health and safety of my children and family,” he said. she declared.

In written testimony, Wright, who is black, cited an NAACP report that found more than a million black people live within half a mile of an oil or gas facility, where pollution exceeds the Environmental Protection Agency’s cancer risk guidelines.

“This report is further confirmation of the link between pollution and race and the existence of environmental racism,” she wrote.

Responding to a question from Rep. Donald McEachin, (D-Va.), Wright, a member of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council, said jobs in the oil and gas industry could be replaced by work in springs. renewable energy.

For example, sites damaged by oil and gas pollution could be turned into solar farms, she said.

Republicans defend drilling

Graves, who headed the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority before his election to Congress, said the opinion of Democrats and expert witnesses on the climate impact of reduced drilling was flawed.

Gulf production creates relatively few emissions, he said. Reducing production there would only push production to areas where standards are worse, he said.

“If we’re going to shut down leasing in the Gulf of Mexico or otherwise…all it does is squeeze a balloon and cause production in other areas,” he said. “When we shut down domestic production, all it does is increase our dependence on foreign energy sources with higher emissions.”

Rep. Yvette Herrell, (RN.M.), said cutting U.S. production would have no impact on other countries.

“It’s a global issue and I think our growers across the country have done a phenomenal job of reducing CO[2] shows,” Herrell said. “But how do we really protect the environment if we don’t force other countries to meet the same standards?”

Stauber also noted that revenue from lease sales was widely used to fund conservation programs. The November sale brought in $192 million.

“Therefore, I look forward to more rental sales,” he said. “I look forward to generating more American energy for our homes and businesses. And I look forward to funding conservation.

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Louisianans disagree on racial impact

Graves and Wright traded differing interpretations of the energy industry’s disparate impacts on black communities in Louisiana.

Graves, who is white, disputed Wright’s description of the impacts of oil and gas production on race, saying he was “actually a bit offended” that she suggested energy production was racist.

Some parishes — including Plaquemines, Lafourche, Terrebone and Cameron — closest to oil and gas production have black populations ranging from 4% to 21%, Graves said. The share of blacks in the state’s population is 32.8%, according to census data.

When we shut down domestic production, it only increases our dependence on foreign energy sources that generate more emissions.

– Rep. Garret Graves, (R-Louisiana)

Graves did not question Wright directly, but in her next invitation to speak, she reached out to Graves and said he was selective in choosing the communities he used as examples.

“I want to tell my fellow Louisiana people…I also live in Louisiana,” she said. “He is insulted that I say it is racist. I am also insulted by the racism that I experience on a daily basis.


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