One problem in particular that has caught my attention is permitting delays for drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf of Alaska. Right now, companies that have paid billions of dollars for offshore oil and gas leases are being held up by regulatory confusion between the EPA and the bureaucraticly created appeals board that reviews permits. The Jobs and Energy Permitting Act, H.R. 2021, will simplify the process by taking the appeals board out of the equation. The EPA will be required to grant or deny permits within six months of the request.
Now, some have asked why a member from Colorado would be offering a bill about Alaska. It’s an easy answer. This bill doesn’t just relate to Alaska. It has to do with every American who is forced to suffer through the pain at the pump caused by high gas prices. Exploration in Alaska will generate federal revenue and create tens of thousands of jobs for the rest of the country, while lowering gas prices at the same time.
Increased domestic energy production is also good for economic growth. One thing I can attest to is that a majority of Coloradans support increased energy production in the state for that reason. Yes, we expect and deserve strong environmental safeguards, but we don’t want those safeguards to be exploited into an excuse to shut down the energy industry. Coloradans are proud to live in a state that produces energy for the rest of the nation, and we recognize the benefits in terms of high paying jobs as well as state and local revenues.
That sentiment is as true of native Alaskans as it is of native Coloradans. There are very few elected officials from Alaska who support the existing constraints on energy production there. In fact, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has introduced a companion measure to my bill in the Senate.
Production off the coast of Alaska could provide a million barrels of oil a day – comparable to what we currently import from Saudi Arabia. Unlike Saudi Arabia, this domestic production is blocked by a convoluted permitting system in place that is difficult if not impossible to navigate. The fact that the owner of the leases had already secured 35 permits, but could not start drilling because it could not get the 36th would be funny if not for the adverse consequences in lost domestic energy and lost jobs.
There is no one solution that will meet all our energy needs. However, I do not believe that the administration is using all the tools at its disposal to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and lower gas prices.
This legislation is the compilation of a lot of hard work and has bipartisan support in the House and Senate. It is my hope this bill will be one of many steps toward increasing our domestic production in Alaska and the rest of the country.
Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) is the sponsor of the Jobs and Energy Permitting Act of 2011.