Republican Sens. Mel Martinez of Florida and Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina have called on the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to review the projected cost of carrying out an inventory of oil and natural gas resources in the federal Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).
The Interior Department's Minerals Management Service (MMS) has estimated that the cost of conducting an OCS resource inventory in the 26 planning areas would range from $1.95 billion to $3.25 billion. Martinez, however, believes the inventory cost could be three times that estimate.
Both senators are opposed to drilling off the coasts of their states, and view an inventory as the first step toward removing the moratorium on exploration and production in much of the OCS, including the East and West Coasts, eastern Gulf of Mexico and parts of Alaska.
The Senate in mid-June voted to include a provision in its omnibus energy bill (HR 6) that directs the federal government to carry out an OCS inventory, but the House energy bill does not include such language. Martinez voted against the Senate energy bill because of the OCS inventory provision. House and Senate conferees currently are negotiating to reconcile the differences in the two energy measures. Dole was joined by 23 senators last week in asking conferees to leave the OCS inventory provision out of the final energy bill conference report.
"The range of $1.95 to $3.25 billion should be considered a minimal cost estimate, as there are very few companies that would be available to perform the work. In addition, costs could be significantly higher to perform an inventory in the treacherous waters of the Arctic and North Atlantic during the winter months," Martinez and Dole wrote to the CBO on July 14.
"My argument [against the inventory] remains a question as to why we are considering a mammoth, extensive and expensive inventory in areas covered by a moratorium on offshore drilling," Martinez said.
Noting that conferees have already begun work on the energy bill, Martinez and Dole asked the CBO for expedited consideration of their request.
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