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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 CrenshawGOP divided over Liz Cheney's future Crenshaw knocks Biden's stimulus: 'Stop plagiarizing the last relief bill' OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Nine, including former Michigan governor, charged over Flint water crisis | Regulator finalizes rule forcing banks to serve oil, gun companies | Trump admin adds hurdle to increase efficiency standards for furnaces, water heaters MORE (R-Texas), Randy K. Weber (R-Texas), Clay HigginsGlen (Clay) Clay HigginsREAD: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results GOP lawmaker, CNN anchor battle over lack of evidence for fraud claims Here are the Republicans planning to challenge the Electoral College results MORE (R-La.), Mike JohnsonJames (Mike) Michael JohnsonREAD: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results Louisiana Rep.-elect Luke Letlow dies of COVID-19 House Republicans who didn't sign onto the Texas lawsuit 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 RoyGOP divided over Liz Cheney's future Trust between lawmakers reaches all-time low after Capitol riots GOP senators blame Trump after mob overruns Capitol MORE (R-Texas), Bruce WestermanBruce Eugene WestermanGOP attacks Democrats for allowing Moore to vote after positive COVID test Moore to appear in House for Speaker's vote after testing positive for COVID-19 LIVE COVERAGE: House votes to name Speaker 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 DuncanREAD: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results Here are the Republicans planning to challenge the Electoral College results Top GOP lawmakers call for Swalwell to be removed from Intelligence Committee 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 Sanders'Almost Heaven, West Virginia' — Joe Manchin and a 50-50 Senate Biden to seek minimum wage in COVID-19 proposal Former Sanders spokesperson: Progressives 'shouldn't lose sight' of struggling Americans during pandemic MORE (I-Vt.), Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyBiden and the new Congress must protect Americans from utility shutoffs Flags, signs and other items left behind in Capitol riot to be preserved as historical artifacts Laptop stolen from Pelosi's office during Capitol riots MORE (D-Ore.) and Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyFive centrist Democrats oppose Pelosi for Speaker in tight vote David Sirota: Democrats gave away leverage in forcing vote on ,000 checks Sanders to slow down NDAA veto override in bid to get vote on K checks proposal 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 TrumpCIA chief threatened to resign over push to install Trump loyalist as deputy: report Azar in departure letter says Capitol riot threatens to 'tarnish' administration's accomplishments Justice Dept. argues Trump should get immunity from rape accuser's lawsuit 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.