Offshore oil and natural gas producers scored a break in the stopgap funding measure signed by President Obama late Tuesday — it excludes a provision that would have extended the federal review period of new offshore drilling plans to 90 days from 30 days.

Both Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) objected to the extension, saying it would further delay the permitting process for offshore oil and gas development that has been stalled since the explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon last April. The Obama administration imposed a moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) following the fatal disaster, and removed it in mid-October. But activity in the GOM remains at a standstill (see Daily GPI, Oct. 13).

The stopgap spending measure, which funds the federal government until March 4, was approved by both the Senate and House Tuesday and forwarded to the president for his signature.

The two senators expressed their opposition to the proposed extension in a letter earlier this month to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, and Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the ranking Republican on the panel. “It has now been eight months since the Deepwater Horizon accident and our nation’s offshore oil and gas industry is still reeling from the economic impact of the moratorium and now the de facto moratorium that has taken its place. Adding more time to the clock will only serve to further delay a process that needs to be accelerated,” they wrote.

The Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEM) “has not approved one exploration plan in the past six months, despite several permits pending since June 8 — this exceeds the statutory length of review time by over 150 days. We cannot in good conscience legitimize this inexcusable delay by codifying it in an appropriations bill while offshore workers and their families continue to suffer,” Landrieu and Murkowski said.

A Senate omnibus spending measure, which was shelved last week due to Republican opposition, would have extended the review period to 90 days.

The exclusion of the extension in the stopgap spending measure makes it much less likely that a change to the federal review period will make its way into law, given that Republicans, who criticized the Obama administration’s response to the GOM oil spill, will control the House when the next funding measure is written, CQ reported.

The spending measure also provides more funding for offshore regulatory programs, specifically for BOEM-related reorganization and to implement new regulations for the offshore, said Lee Fuller, vice president of government relations at the Independent Petroleum Association of America.

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