The Interior Department remains mum on Republican senators’ claim that revenue from bonus bids associated with offshore oil and natural gas leasing has nosedived to zero from $10 billion over the past three years.

“I’m not going to comment on the letter” in which Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana and other Republicans made the allegation, said T. David Smith, a spokesman for Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which is responsible for energy leasing and planning on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).

In the letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Michael Bromwich, now acting director of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, Vitter, Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), John Cornyn (R-TX) and Richard Shelby (R-AL) said the drop-off in federal revenue was due to the limited number of lease sales being held by the Obama administration in the OCS.

While Smith declined to estimate revenue from bonus bids that Interior collected during the three-year period, he sent NGI an email that included links for bids received in 2009 and 2010 lease sales: $145 million in Western Gulf of Mexico (GOM) Lease Sale 210 in August 2009; $933.6 million in Central GOM Lease Sale 208 in March 2009; and $1.3 billion in Central GOM Lease Sale 213 in March 2010. However these sales occurred before the Macondo well blowout in April 2010, which resulted in the slowdown in permitting in the Gulf (see Daily GPI, April 22, 2010).

“Under the Obama administration’s management, revenue from our offshore lease sale program has gone from $10 billion to nothing in just three years. Revenue cannot be generated from lease sales that do not happen,” Vitter said.

As a result, “the revenue that Gulf states can anticipate from their share of bonus bids…is $0 for fiscal year 2011. This is clear evidence that the financial scope of these decisions reaches beyond the federal Treasury.”

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