McConnell pans Obama drilling plan

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday slammed new White House plans to accelerate oil-and-gas development as a public relations stunt that omits vital steps needed to allow increased drilling.

President Obama used his weekly address Saturday to announce annual lease sales in Alaska’s onshore National Petroleum Reserve, extension of certain leases in the Gulf of Mexico and off Alaska’s coast, and a new interagency team to streamline offshore Alaskan permitting. The White House also reiterated plans to hold Gulf of Mexico lease sales over the next year.

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But McConnell said the emphasis on selling leases misses a crucial point. “The administration knows perfectly well that leasing is just the start of the development process, which is why its only hope is that Americans don’t pay close attention to the details of its plan,” McConnell said Tuesday.

“Permits are what really matters, and by refusing to issue permits in any meaningful way, the administration is showing its true colors in this debate,” he said, according to floor remarks his office circulated. “If the administration were serious about increasing domestic energy production, it would increase leases — and address this administration’s de-facto moratorium on permits.”

Senate Republicans are pushing a plan – which is slated for a test vote Wednesday – that mirrors some of the offshore drilling legislation the House approved earlier this month. It would set new deadlines for the Interior Department to approve or deny industry drilling permit applications, and if 60 days pass without action, permits would be deemed approved.

It includes deadlines for leasing off the Gulf Coast and requires a lease sale off Virginia’s coast, among other provisions.

“If President Obama and his party are really serious about lowering gas prices, making us less dependent on foreign oil, and creating the thousands of jobs that American exploration is proven to produce, they would embrace our plan and stop pretending to care about a crisis they have done so much to create and, their latest public relations efforts notwithstanding, continue to ignore,” McConnell said.

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