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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 CrenshawChanging suburbs threaten GOP hold on Texas Biden, Democrats see late opportunity in Texas Dan Crenshaw releases Hollywood-type action movie trailer MORE (R-Texas), Randy K. Weber (R-Texas), Clay HigginsGlen (Clay) Clay HigginsLouisiana House candidate fundraises off opponent's tweet about wife's 'premonition' dream House in near-unanimous vote affirms peaceful transfer of power Facebook removes GOP lawmaker's post for inciting violence MORE (R-La.), Mike JohnsonJames (Mike) Michael JohnsonTrump's test sparks fears of spread: Here's who he met in last week Reclaiming the American Dream LWCF modernization: Restoring the promise MORE (R-La.), Bill FloresWilliam (Bill) Hose FloresHillicon 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 Patient Protection Pledge offers price transparency MORE (R-Texas), Chip RoyCharles (Chip) Eugene RoyMcCarthy faces pushback from anxious Republicans over interview comments Biden endorses Texas Democratic House candidate Julie Oliver Republican fears grow over rising Democratic tide MORE (R-Texas), Bruce WestermanBruce Eugene WestermanCOVID-19 complicates California's record-setting wildfire season  Cheap, at-home coronavirus tests exist — why aren't we using them? US officially joins global trillion tree planting initiative MORE (R-Ark.), Ralph Abraham (R-La.), Kevin HernKevin HernLawmakers call for small business aid at all levels of government The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Washington on edge amid SCOTUS vacancy On the Money: Administration to ban TikTok, WeChat | House moves toward bill to avoid government shutdown | Coronavirus relief bills boosted GDP, CBO says MORE (R-Okla.), Jeff DuncanJeffrey (Jeff) Darren DuncanHillicon 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 Biden's Iran policy is deeply flawed 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 SandersObama book excerpt: 'Hard to deny my overconfidence' during early health care discussions Americans have a choice: Socialized medicine or health care freedom Ocasio-Cortez says Democrats must focus on winning White House for Biden MORE (I-Vt.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyElectric vehicles see state-level gains GOP clears key hurdle on Barrett's Supreme Court nomination, setting up Monday confirmation Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing MORE (D-Ore.) and Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyMarkey rips GOP for support of Amy Coney Barrett: Originalism 'just a fancy word for discrimination' Ocasio-Cortez says having Green New Deal would have helped handle COVID-19 pandemic OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Democrats push expansion of offshore wind, block offshore drilling with ocean energy bill | Poll: Two-thirds of voters support Biden climate plan | Biden plan lags Green New Deal in fighting emissions from homes 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 TrumpTrump admin to announce coronavirus vaccine will be covered under Medicare, Medicaid: report Election officials say they're getting suspicious emails that may be part of malicious attack on voting: report McConnell tees up Trump judicial pick following Supreme Court vote 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.