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 CrenshawOcasio-Cortez builds political army, and a fundraising machine to match GOP lawmakers call for new sanctions on senior Chinese officials Michigan suspends license of barber who vowed to keep his shop open 'until Jesus comes' MORE (R-Texas), Randy K. Weber (R-Texas), Clay HigginsGlen (Clay) Clay HigginsLawmakers ask Trump administration to help Gulf oil and gas producers Louisiana church defies coronavirus recommendations to hold service for 300 The five dumbest things said about impeachment so far MORE (R-La.), Mike JohnsonJames (Mike) Michael JohnsonHouse Republicans call for cutting office budgets of lawmakers who use proxy voting The Hill's Morning Report - Treasury, Fed urge more spending, lending to ease COVID-19 wreckage Floyd's brother urges Congress to take action MORE (R-La.), Bill FloresWilliam (Bill) Hose FloresLawmakers ask Trump administration to help Gulf oil and gas producers Texas kicks off critical battle for House control Democrats push to end confidentiality for oil companies that don't add ethanol MORE (R-Texas), Chip RoyCharles (Chip) Eugene RoyHouse Republicans urge White House to support TSA giving travelers temperature checks GOP lawmakers raise concerns over veterans' access to health care amid pandemic Small businesses receive much-needed Paycheck Protection Program fixes MORE (R-Texas), Bruce WestermanBruce Eugene WestermanNatural Resources Democrats again rebuff Republican complaints about virtual meetings OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Dems press Trump consumer safety nominee on chemical issues | Lawmakers weigh how to help struggling energy industry | 180 Democrats ask House leadership for clean energy assistance GOP fighting 'misleading' Democratic forums on House Natural Resources Committee MORE (R-Ark.), Ralph Abraham (R-La.), Kevin HernKevin HernMusic venues turn to K Street with industry under threat Lawmakers ask Trump administration to help Gulf oil and gas producers Conservatives call on Pelosi to cancel August recess MORE (R-Okla.), Jeff DuncanJeffrey (Jeff) Darren DuncanGOP lawmaker calls for Confederate portrait to be put back in Capitol Rep. Banks launches bid for RSC chairman Republicans push for help for renewable energy, fossil fuel industries 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 SandersDemocratic senator will introduce bill mandating social distancing on flights after flying on packed flight Neil Young opposes use of his music at Trump Mt Rushmore event: 'I stand in solidarity with the Lakota Sioux' Democratic strategist Andrew Feldman says Biden is moving left MORE (I-Vt.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyDemocratic senator will introduce bill mandating social distancing on flights after flying on packed flight Manchin draws line against repealing legislative filibuster The Hill's 12:30 Report: Supreme Court ruling marks big win for abortion rights groups MORE (D-Ore.) and Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyGOP senators debate replacing Columbus Day with Juneteenth as a federal holiday The Hill's Campaign Report: Jacksonville mandates face coverings as GOP convention approaches Steyer endorses Markey in Massachusetts Senate primary 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 John Trump Trump responds to calls to tear down monuments with creation of 'National Garden' of statues Trump: Children are taught in school to 'hate their own country' Trump accuses those tearing down statues of wanting to 'overthrow the American Revolution' 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.