The Biden administration has issued new restrictions on oil and gas companies operating in the Gulf of Mexico, prompting criticism and raised eyebrows from industry experts and those who advocate for energy independence in the United States.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), which regulates energy development in federal waters, published a Notice to Lessees and Operators (NTL) on Monday evening focusing on increased protections for the Rice’s whale, a species part of the Endangered Species Act. The NTL seeks to create a vast new protection zone stretching across the Gulf of Mexico imposing a variety of conditions on U.S. energy producers.
Erik Milito, President of the National Ocean Industries Association, called the action an "end-around legal requirements and the public process."
“Despite lacking ample scientific evidence to support such extensive bans on operations, the agreement targets the domestic offshore oil and gas industry,” Milito said in a statement.
The agreement was reached last month after an environmental group coalition and the Biden administration reached a settlement. It outlines the need for specialized visual observers aboard vessels in the area and vehicles staying at no more than 10 knots while operating within the protected area, in addition to prohibiting nighttime travel. It also removes an estimated 11 million acres of potential oil-rich lease blocks from an upcoming Lease Sale 261, which has garnered its own fair share of criticism.
“The federal government is moving forward to expand these protections to other ocean users and industries, imposing disruptions to the full Gulf Coast economy — home to numerous strategic national ports — and reverberating throughout the whole U.S. economy," Milito claims.
The agreement has been met with harsh criticism by those in support of American energy independence, with Holly Hopkins, a vice president of upstream policy for the American Petroleum Institute, saying the restrictions “would impose significant burdens on the men and women currently working in the region."
“Today’s notice [from BOEM] is yet another example of the Biden administration working to restrict American energy, which could lead to higher energy costs and weaken U.S. security,” said Hopkins.
It is yet to be seen if the Associated Press and BOEM restrictions have a tangible impacts on energy production and the American economy, but one thing is certain: the debate over American energy production is still alive and well.