The Biden administration has not yet corrected a previous miscalculation that is delaying offshore oil and gas drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico, the National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA) told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), a subagency of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), admitted in late April that a calculation error caused the agency to overestimate the effects of offshore drilling on wildlife and delay the permitting of existing oil and gas leases. Although the agency has had knowledge of the error since before February 2022, the NMFS has given little information on when it will correct an error that is delaying U.S. energy production amid national fuel shortages, according to NOIA, a group that represents offshore energy producers.
“The problem is that there doesn’t appear to be a whole lot of urgency behind the efforts to correct this and it’s an issue that has been lingering for a long time,” NOIA President Erik Milito told the DCNF. “Correcting this absolutely should be a priority when it comes to our nation’s energy security.”
Oil and gas activities in the Gulf of Mexico have the potential to “take” marine mammals by “harassment,” which is prohibited unless the lease owner receives an incidental take authorization under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, a NOAA spokeswoman told the DCNF. NOAA created an incidental take rule in 2021 which issued take authorizations (Letters of Authorization) to individual operators to allow them to continue activities legally.
However, the NFMS discovered in 2021 that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) miscalculated the amount of wildlife “take” that would be expected by oil and gas exploration in the gulf which delayed approvals for existing leases.
“In order for us to continue to produce at the levels we’re at and then also to add to those supplies, we need the ability to do the seismic work and that can only be done through these approvals,” Milito continued. “The government needs to make these corrections as quickly as possible and get these rules finalized so that we can eliminate this impediment.”
The administration’s consistent delays are causing uncertainty throughout the industry, which could hamper investment and reduce fuel production, Milito said. National stockpiles of crude oil are at their lowest level since 2020 and national gas prices have risen by $1.48 per gallon on average since President Joe Biden took office, according to the Energy Information Administration.
“NOAA Fisheries is in the process of revising its earlier programmatic determination given the new information from BOEM,” a NOAA spokeswoman said in a statement provided to the DCNF. “Upon completion of that process, the agency will promptly review and respond appropriately to applications for Letters of Authorization.”
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