The Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee continued marking-up energy legislation this week and turned to oil and gas issues. What may turn out to be very good news for consumers was the committee’s action to provide more access to the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) for oil and natural gas leasing.
The committee approved an amendment offered by Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) that will provide significant new access in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico (EGOM). Under current law, oil and gas leasing is prohibited until 2022 in the EGOM that lies within 125 miles of the Florida Panhandle and within 235 miles of the state’s western coastline.
The Dorgan amendment will open the EGOM beyond 45 miles of the Florida coast for oil and gas development, including the “Destin Dome” natural gas discovery that lies approximately 25 miles south of Pensacola. Existing pipeline and other vital infrastructure lie right next door in the already open Central Gulf of Mexico, so natural gas produced from the new area could come online and be on its way to consumers fairly quickly.
According to the American Petroleum Institute, The Destin Dome could produce anywhere from 110 to 165 billion cubic feet of gas every year for the next 20 years. U.S. Senators from both parties have long been saying that we need to solve the problem of our dependence on imported oil. Some of the answers, such as renewable and alternative forms of energy, involve very long lead times. The Dorgan Amendment, however, provides a here and now solution that can be realized fairly quickly.
Perennial Senate opponents to offshore energy production, such as Bill Nelson of Florida and Robert Menendez of New Jersey, have vowed to filibuster and the environmental groups are calling the amendment a “poison pill” that will bring down the entire energy bill. But I agree with Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska who believes that the addition of real domestic energy production to the bill actually enhances its chance of passage. Could this be because the overwhelming majority of the American public is in favor of offshore drilling for oil and natural gas?
For the sake of our economy and our standard of living, let us hope that the Dorgan amendment gets enacted into law. For a summary of the Dorgan amendment, click here. To see AGA’s letter, click here. To read our press release, click here.