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WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) joined Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and other Republican senators in writing to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo urging the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to stop delaying permits for offshore oil and gas companies that are performing exploration work ahead of drilling wells.

“While the Biden Administration and Members of Congress fault the domestic oil and gas industry of sitting idle on over 9,000 drilling permits and millions of acres in ‘inactive leases,’ NMFS’s permitting delays represent one example of the Administration’s de facto ban on new drilling—impeding domestic oil and gas investment, exploration, and production,” the senators wrote.

“Specifically, we are aware that NMFS has a backlog of applications for ‘Letters of Authorization’ (LOA), which federal oil and gas leasees need in order to perform the specific geological surveying necessary to develop their leases located on the federal U.S. Gulf of Mexico Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). We understand some pending LOA applications have been with the agency for well over 100 days, whereas NMFS has historically approved LOA applications within 2 to 4 weeks,” they continued.

The letter notes that the permitting delay is principally due to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) inadvertently double-counting projected exposure estimates for activities on the OCS, it’s reliance on those miscalculations when developing the final rule in question. 

The letter advises the NMFS to:

  • allow officials to approve outstanding and future LOA applications consistent with the agency’s permitting activities prior to the 2021 Final Rule,
  • use NMFS’ discretion to immediately approve those LOA applications that are most likely to bring production online first,
  • issue a new proposed rule immediately and final rule within a more reasonable timeframe and
  • shift additional resources to process applications and make available to permittees any other alternative permitting processes within NMFS’s authority.

“It is unacceptable that agency miscalculations have restricted access to safe, secure, and reliable domestic oil and gas production through substantial, unnecessary, and arbitrary permitting delays,” the senators concluded.

Text of the letter is available here.