Since November, President Joe Biden has blamed high U.S. gas prices on oil companies he accused of “anti-consumer behavior.” President Biden has said oil companies should drill for more oil. It is hard to drill for oil, though, when a federal agency’s math mistake causes delays in permitting for existing leases.
A subagency of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) enforces the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The Act, and its regulations, allows the incidental “taking” of small numbers of marine mammals by U.S. citizens who engage in a specified activity, such as oil exploration and production.
NOAA head Richard Spinrad said that a subagency “discovered a miscalculation” that has caused a massive backlog in permitting, in an April 29 letter to the National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA), according to a Daily Caller report. Spinrad acknowledged the NOAA Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has used faulty modeling in assessing impacts of offshore drilling. The report notes the miscalculation resulted in overestimated wildlife effects that delayed permitting for existing leases.
“NMFS understands the concerns of industry and is working with [the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM)] to expeditiously develop … revised regulations,” Spinrad wrote. The NOAA letter response to an April 5 letter from NOIA, the American Petroleum Institute and the EnerGeo Alliance, warning energy producers had experienced significant permitting delays.
Oil and gas companies, especially, have reported delays in obtaining NMFS letters of authorization (LOA) to allow them to conduct pre-drilling activity like seismic surveying and geological exploration. The industry groups said the math mistake was introduced in an April 2021 regulation implemented by the Biden administration.
A Department of Commerce spokesperson Thursday said the administration was “working to consider all possible solutions to expedite the rulemaking process to the greatest extent possible.”
“The Commerce Department understands the concerns of industry and is working expeditiously to address the incorrect data it received for the initial rule and to proceed in earnest with the revised rule,” the spokesperson added. The report noted the spokesperson did not answer a question about the size of the backlog for permits caused by the government mistake.
Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and 19 fellow GOP senators Tuesday wrote the Department of Commerce about permitting delays caused by the mathematical error. The lawmakers demanded the administration issue a new rule immediately, fixing the issue.
Or, at the very least, use the rules in place before the faulty April 2021 regulation.
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