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Senators Introduce Bipartisan Legislation Expanding Offshore Leasing

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today introduced bipartisan legislation to expand American offshore energy production with a revised five-year leasing plan and provide revenue sharing to all participating coastal states. The Offshore Petroleum Expansion Now Act of 2012 – OPEN Act – is co-sponsored by Sens. Jim Webb, D-Va.; Mark Warner, D-Va.; Mary Landrieu, D-La.; John Hoeven, R-N.D.; Jim Inhofe, R-Okla. 

The bill provides a common-sense alternative to the president’s proposed 2012-2017 offshore plan, which included just 12 lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico, one in Alaska’s Cook Inlet, and the potential for two sales in Alaska’s Arctic. The OPEN Act would add an additional dozen lease sales to that list, and incudes multiple area-wide sales in Alaska’s Beaufort and Chukchi seas. 

Under current law, the president must submit his five-year plan to Congress for a mandatory 60-day review. Sen. Murkowski and other critics of the president’s proposal point out that the president’s plan excludes nearly 90 percent of America’s outer continental shelf.

“The OPEN Act sends a clear message that America is serious about developing its energy resources to fuel an economic recovery,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-AK, said. “This bill will not only improve our energy security and create jobs, it also ensures that states receive a fair share of the revenue generated off their coastlines.”

“This legislation would replace the administration’s shortsighted five-year plan for drilling in the OCS, and instead allow the U.S. to tap into the vast oil and gas potential off our coasts,” Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said. “In addition to creating jobs and giving the U.S. economy a much needed boost through increased energy production revenues, this bill includes revenue sharing for coastal states that produce essential energy resources for our country, something that is lacking in other drilling legislation.”

“I have long advocated opening up more of the nation’s outer continental shelf resources to responsible natural gas and oil exploration,” said Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., who has repeatedly called for Virginia’s inclusion in the administration’s five-year oil and gas leasing plan. “Energy exploration and subsequent production within the Virginia Outer Continental Shelf — if coupled with environmental protections and an equitable formula for sharing revenues between the state and federal governments — would boost domestic energy supplies, while benefiting the Commonwealth’s economy.”

“To create good jobs and get our economy back on track, it’s vital that we develop all of our North American resources, both onshore and offshore, to make sure consumers and businesses have affordable energy for years to come,” Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said. “This bill will help by giving the industry the certainty it needs to invest and grow.”

“An American energy boom is breaking out across the country with states like Oklahoma leading the way. The United States enjoys largest recoverable reserves of oil, gas and coal of any nation in the world – and the results of taking advantage of these resources are clear: lower unemployment, stronger state economies, increased domestic energy security, and cheaper energy prices. Unfortunately the Obama administration remains determined to implement their failed energy policies while doing everything possible to keep us from the benefits of our immense resources,” Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said. “That’s why I am pleased to join Sen. Murkowski in introducing this common-sense bipartisan energy legislation – a bill that ensures we can build upon this energy boom and move forward on the path to affordable American energy and millions of much-needed jobs.”

“Our economy and national security will be strengthened by an ‘all-of-the-above’ approach to energy, including the expanded production of our own domestic energy resources,” said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. “We believe that Virginians should benefit from any energy resources that are developed off of our coast, and this legislation requires the federal government to make reasonable royalty payments to the Commonwealth.”  

In addition to the sales off Alaska’s northern coast, the OPEN Act adds lease sales off the mid-Atlantic coast and allows exploration from existing infrastructure in Southern California.

It also provides revenue sharing (37.5 percent) to any state with energy production off its coast. The revenue sharing language is technology neutral, covering all forms of energy production, including offshore wind energy.

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