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Erik Milito's remarks at press briefing on Atlantic offshore access

Press briefing Atlantic offshore access 
Erik Milito, API director upstream and industry operations 
Monday, March 14, 2016 

Opening statement as prepared for delivery: 

Good morning, all. Thank you for joining today’s call to discuss the importance of ensuring the maximum offshore access in the final five year plan. Today, the API, NOIA and IAGC are calling on the Obama administration to allow access to develop American offshore energy resources.

Governors in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and other states have actively encouraged the president and Congress to open the Atlantic for offshore energy development. Public polling has found strong support for offshore drilling both at the national level and in states along the East Coast. And members of API’s network of more than 35 million grassroots activists from all across the country understand that continuing America’s energy renaissance could create thousands of good paying jobs and strengthen our national and energy security. 

In March 2015 more than 30 members of the House of Representatives wrote the Interior Department with their support for an Atlantic lease sale. In April of last year more than 160 members of Congress wrote to the DOI to encourage the opening of new areas for exploration, including the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf.

Just today, a petition signed by more than 186,000 concerned citizens from around the country -- but mostly from coastal states -- is being delivered to Secretary Jewell’s office. More and more Americans will continue to write in support as the discussion continues. More than 500,000 energy voters submitted comments during the previous comment period.

Restraining U.S. production would make the United States less competitive, more reliant on foreign sources of energy and disrupt the geopolitical advantages that our energy leadership has afforded us today.

Long experience in the U.S. and around the world proves that commercial and recreational fishing, tourism and military activity can coexist in harmony with and benefit from offshore oil and natural gas development.

Accessing our offshore oil and natural gas resources is safer now than ever before. Regulators and the industry together have made great strides to enhance the safety of offshore operations in recent years.

Industry launched and completed a comprehensive review of offshore safety measures and operations to identify and implement improvements in spill prevention, intervention and response capabilities.

The co-chairs of a national spill commission praised these efforts just over a year ago, saying offshore drilling is safer than ever.

The possible benefits for developing oil and natural gas off of the Atlantic coast are numerous. The most promising areas for development run all the way from the coasts of Maine to Florida. Official government figures project the possibility of nearly 5 billion barrels of oil and over 37 trillion cubic feet of gas contained by this section of the Atlantic Shelf.[1]

This is American energy security, American jobs, U.S. government revenue and American GDP tied up by political red tape. This is a once in a generation opportunity, stuck, off limits to future generations as it waits for forward-looking energy policy.

We’ve seen the benefits of our U.S. energy renaissance. U.S. consumers see it at the gasoline pump and in their home energy bills. And Americans read about the positive geopolitical impacts on a daily basis. This is a big opportunity and if the U.S. is to continue the success we’ve seen over the past decade of American energy leadership and our ability to compete on the global market, the time to get it right on energy policy is now.

Given our industry’s leadership in technical innovation, existing projections of recoverable  oil reserves in the Atlantic Shelf are  likely low based upon the past experiences and results of the industry. The bulk of the most recent surveys of this area of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) are 30 years old. Today, if given the opportunity to see what is out there, more sophisticated survey technologies could provide a fuller picture of the reserve.

Opening areas in the Atlantic, Pacific and Eastern Gulf of Mexico could lead to production of more than 3.5 million barrels of oil equivalent per day – almost twice the amount EIA projects we’ll hit next year in the western Gulf alone. This is especially significant because just a few years ago, the United States was importing 12.5 million barrels per day of oil from foreign sources. Imports have since dramatically fallen and we can continue to decrease our reliance on foreign energy with smart policies.

Staying competitive and generating our own energy does not happen overnight.  It happens as a result of planning.

That’s why the leasing plan for 2017 – 2022, currently being finalized by the Department of Interior, is so important. The new five-year plan will determine whether additional states will join the American energy revolution or continue to sit on the sidelines.  The statute itself – the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act – requires Interior to balance the economic benefits and the environmental risks among the various planning areas.  The current plan fails to achieve this objective and any further removal of areas would be in conflict with this requirement.

Keeping federal offshore acreage off limits to development is not in America’s interests. The revenue generated by offshore oil and natural gas production can help state and local governments afford to develop or upgrade tourist attractions, infrastructure and beach projects. A revenue sharing agreement like the one in effect for states bordering the Gulf of Mexico should also be extended to other coastal states. Every state that hosts oil and natural gas development off its shores should get a fair share of the revenue collected by the federal government.

Protecting and building on the extensive economic and energy security benefits generated by the American energy revolution should be the Obama administration’s top priority in its next five-year leasing plan. We are a forward-looking industry and have hope that American energy policy can say yes to opening the door to more jobs, domestic investment and government revenue through safe and responsible American energy production.

With that, I open the line for Randall Luthi, President of the National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA).