A coalition of 35 Republican senators led by Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, Kit Bond of Missouri and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska has called on the White House to tap new domestic oil and natural gas resources and to expeditiously complete the administration’s five-year plan for developing resources on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).

“An affirmative decision by you not to reinstate the presidential moratorium on U.S. offshore…production, along with your leadership in delivering a new offshore drilling plan in an expeditious manner, will benefit all Americans. We also encourage you to continue the practice of revenue sharing with producing states in order to return a fair share of royalties to them,” the coalition wrote in a letter to President Obama Monday.

“I urge the Administration to take the steps necessary to develop our domestic and abundant OCS resources, which have been off-limits since 1982…We must begin with the swift development of offshore oil and gas, as well as leveraging renewable resources and increasing energy efficiency,” said Hutchison.

“In this time of economic uncertainty, we cannot afford to ignore the rich natural resources off our shores,” agreed Murkowski. The Interior Department estimates that the OCS contains as much as 86 billion bbl of crude oil and 420 Tcf of natural gas.

The Republican coalition’s plea comes after the Obama administration last month announced plans to delay completion of the new five-year offshore leasing plan (2010-2015) that was issued in the final days of the Bush administration (see Daily GPI, Feb. 11). The proposed leasing plan, which would open banned areas off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, was issued on Jan. 16, the last business day of the Bush administration (see Daily GPI, Jan. 20).

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar added six months to the time period for public comment on the proposed leasing plan, extending the deadline to Sept. 23. He further directed Interior’s Minerals Management Service and the U.S. Geological Survey to issue a report on traditional and renewable OCS resources in 45 days. And 30 days following the issuance of the report, Salazar said he will host four regional meetings on the OCS in Alaska and along the Eastern Seaboard, West Coast and Gulf Coast.

Salazar’s decision to delay completion of the leasing plan had the same effect as reinstating the moratorium on oil and natural gas drilling in the OCS, said Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) last Wednesday (see Daily GPI, Feb. 26). “The true effect of Secretary Salazar’s six-month delay is a reinstatement of a ban on drilling. Make no mistake; this action has precisely the same result as a moratorium. So let us call it what it truly is, a moratorium, not a delay,” he said during a hearing before the House Natural Resources Committee.

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