Lawmakers ask Trump administration to help Gulf oil and gas producers

Lawmakers ask Trump administration to help Gulf oil and gas producers

A group of 14 lawmakers is asking the Trump administration to help out the offshore energy industry amid a decline in oil prices linked to international disputes and the coronavirus pandemic.

The 13 Republicans and one Democrat sent a letter on Friday to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt asking him to reduce or waive royalties for oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico. 

“The Department of the Interior has existing authority to temporarily reduce or eliminate royalties set forth in the leases in the Western and Central Planning Areas of the Gulf of Mexico and other lease areas,” the lawmakers wrote. 

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“We urge you to examine the viability of a temporary reduction in royalties as domestic energy producers weather this combination of an [Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries]-driven price war and an epidemic that is driving millions of people around the world into quarantines of one kind or another,” they added. “Such an action in the short term will help mitigate a price war that is sinking prices and decreasing production.”

Their letter follows a separate action by the Trump administration that boosts the oil industry at large. 

On Thursday, the Energy Department announced that it will buy 30 million barrels of oil from producers to be stored in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

The Friday letter was signed by Reps. Dan CrenshawDaniel CrenshawThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Officers recount the horror of Jan. 6 Jake Ellzey defeats Trump-backed candidate in Texas House runoff Six takeaways: What the FEC reports tell us about the midterm elections MORE (R-Texas), Randy K. Weber (R-Texas), Clay HigginsGlen (Clay) Clay HigginsHouse GOP stages mask mandate protest Hoyer suggests COVID-19 rules will stay — and might get tougher The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Jan. 6 probe, infrastructure to dominate week MORE (R-La.), Mike JohnsonJames (Mike) Michael JohnsonGOP's Banks burnishes brand with Pelosi veto Republicans divided on how hard to push vaccines McCarthy, GOP face a delicate dance on Jan. 6 committee MORE (R-La.), Bill FloresWilliam (Bill) Hose FloresThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Calls mount to start transition as Biden readies Cabinet picks Hillicon Valley: House votes to condemn QAnon | Americans worried about foreign election interference | DHS confirms request to tap protester phones House approves measure condemning QAnon, but 17 Republicans vote against it MORE (R-Texas), Chip RoyCharles (Chip) Eugene RoyHouse GOP stages mask mandate protest House clears .1 billion Capitol security bill, sending to Biden House at war over Jan. 6 inquiry, mask mandate MORE (R-Texas), Bruce WestermanBruce Eugene WestermanPush for Civilian Climate Corps highlights underlying obstacles to restoring public lands Honoring America's real VIPs House passes bill to remove Confederate statues from Capitol MORE (R-Ark.), Ralph Abraham (R-La.), Kevin HernKevin HernREAD: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results Top GOP lawmakers call for Swalwell to be removed from Intelligence Committee Lawmakers call for small business aid at all levels of government MORE (R-Okla.), Jeff DuncanJeffrey (Jeff) Darren DuncanNoem to travel to South Carolina for early voting event OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Supreme Court rules that pipeline can seize land from New Jersey | Study: EPA underestimated methane emissions from oil and gas development | Kevin McCarthy sets up task forces on climate, other issues GOP lawmaker demands review over FBI saying baseball shooting was 'suicide by cop' MORE (R-S.C.), Brian Babin (R-Texas), Michael C. Burgess (R-Texas), Michael Cloud (R-Texas) and Lizzie Fletcher (D-Texas). 

“This call for royalty relief on offshore oil and gas will help ensure that the cost of production isn’t more than the price of the commodities. This is especially important for America’s smaller producers – many of whom are based in Texas – who feel the burden of these royalties the most,” Crenshaw's office said a statement about the letter. 

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The idea of reducing royalties for fossil fuels leases, however, came under fire from some Democrats even before the lawmakers sent their letter. 

Last week, Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersFive things to watch in two Ohio special election primaries This week: Senate starts infrastructure sprint Senators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session MORE (I-Vt.), Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyHuman rights can't be a sacrificial lamb for climate action Senate Democrats press administration on human rights abuses in Philippines Bipartisan congressional commission urges IOC to postpone, relocate Beijing Games MORE (D-Ore.) and Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyHuman rights can't be a sacrificial lamb for climate action Nearly 140 Democrats urge EPA to 'promptly' allow California to set its own vehicle pollution standards Senate Democrats press administration on human rights abuses in Philippines MORE (D-Mass.) introduced legislation aiming to prevent the administration from reducing royalty rates for coal, oil or gas recovery. 

“We shouldn’t be producing these dirty fossil fuels at all, much less providing billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to the industry every year,” Sanders said in a statement at the time. 

The three senators also wrote a letter to President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden administration to keep Trump-era rule of turning away migrants during pandemic On The Money: Biden, Pelosi struggle with end of eviction ban | Trump attorney says he will fight release of tax returns Lack of transatlantic cooperation on trade threatens global climate change goals MORE last week, saying that giving federal assistance to oil companies “would be a wasteful misuse of government resources that would exacerbate the climate crisis.”

Industry, however, praised the action. 

"Royalty relief will help preserve American energy competitiveness, while ensuring a fair return to taxpayers," National Ocean Industries Association President Erik Milito said in a statement.