Most voters in the Gulf Coast states of Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas support “sensible” offshore exploration and production, according to a new poll.

marketed natural gas and oil production fields

A poll from the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) issued Monday said voters overwhelmingly approve offshore development, including 70% in Alabama, 72% in Louisiana, 73% in Mississippi and 62% in Texas. More than 900 people were surveyed in Texas, with a 95% confidence level and a margin of error of +/-3%. Around 600 people each were surveyed in the other states with a 95% confidence level and margin of error of +/-4%.

Polling found that nearly two-thirds of voters, including most independents and Democrats in the Gulf Coast states, “support calls for increased development of responsibly produced U.S. oil and natural gas.” In addition, “energy is an important issue to more than 82% of voters surveyed,” CEA said.

“The success of those running for office in this election cycle will hinge on their ability to promote issues that assist in economic recovery, promote energy security for America’s families and small businesses, create jobs, and protect our environment,” CEA President David Holt said. “And supporting responsible offshore energy production in the Gulf remains the best way to achieve all of the above.

“With the Gulf of Mexico producing about a fifth of the nation’s oil, offshore energy production remains one key to America’s ability to protect our critical conservation and environmental programs, coastal restoration and energy security, as well as helping spur COVID-19 economic recovery.”

Streamlining Rules

The survey was issued only days after the Trump administration proposed to streamline financial assurance requirements for the offshore energy industry. 

The Department of Interior’s twin Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) proposed the rules last week. The draft proposal would support President Trump’s Executive Order 13795 to reduce financial burdens on the offshore industry.

Under current regulations, the BOEM regional director may determine that additional security is needed to comply with the terms and conditions of an oil and gas lease. Included are decommissioning liabilities, which refer to costs and obligations associated with removing infrastructure and equipment used to explore and produce oil and gas. 

BOEM previously sought to implement broad changes to its financial assurance regime through guidance documents that Interior said were issued without prior notice and comment.

“While BOEM’s existing regulations provide great latitude to the regional director to request additional financial assurance from operators, the last administration attempted to inflict significant changes to implementation without notice and comment,” said Interior Deputy Secretary Kate MacGregor. 

“Companies require certainty to operate effectively in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), and we welcome public comment on this proposal to ensure companies are able to meet their decommissioning liabilities.”

BOEM wants to clarify and streamline the evaluation criteria used to determine whether OCS lessees, right-of-use/easement grant holders and pipeline right-of-way grant holders must provide additional security. BOEM also wants to remove restrictive provisions for third-party guarantees and decommissioning accounts. In addition, it is seeking to protect against high-risk decommissioning liabilities and reduce some financial burdens.

“Proposing changes to BOEM’s financial assurance program through a rulemaking will allow the bureau to more effectively address a number of complex financial issues, while affording all interested parties the opportunity to provide substantive feedback to the agency,” said BOEM Acting Director Walter Cruickshank.

BOEM’s sister agency BSEE also is proposing to revise the process for issuing decommissioning orders to predecessor lessees and grant holders when they fail to fulfill their obligations. 

The public is to have 60 days to comment on the rules once published in the Federal Register.