Barrasso, Westerman Lead Amicus Brief to Restart Energy Production in Gulf of Mexico

September 15, 2023

Washington, D.C. - Today, Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources ranking member John Barrasso (R-WY) and House Committee on Natural Resources chairman Bruce Westerman (R-AR) led an amicus brief in a case concerning the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's (Bureau) decision to alter the terms of "Lease Sale 261," an oil and gas lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico, set to take place September, 27, 2023. The members of Congress assert that the Bureau's actions undermine the separation of powers by not faithfully executing laws enacted by the legislative branch.


"President Biden is crushing American energy every way he can," Barrasso said. "He is inventing new and destructive ways to target oil and natural gas in our country. The Gulf of Mexico alone is responsible for 15 percent of total U.S. crude oil production. President Biden is strangling American energy in this region of the country with bureaucratic red tape. The Democrats’ mission to cut off American energy production will send energy prices even higher. President Biden is yet again prioritizing liberal extremism over affordable and reliable American energy."


"The price of oil hit a yearly high this week, yet President Biden and his administration seem completely blinded to reality as they prioritize their failed energy policies above all else," Westerman said. "They continue to implement regulations that will drive up costs for the American consumer by limiting companies' access to the Gulf of Mexico, one of the most resources-rich areas in the country. This is so-called 'Bidenomics' in action: shutting down our own sustainable, reliable energy production and leaving Americans to pick up the tab. It's unacceptable, and I look forward to seeing our judicial system step in to rectify these America-last policies."


Barrasso and Westerman were joined by Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX), Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) along with Representatives Jerry Carl (R-AL), Garret Graves (R-LA), Wesley Hunt (R-TX), August Pfluger (R-TX), and Pete Stauber (R-MN).


Background Information:


The Biden administration recently entered into a closed-door settlement agreement with the Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth and Turtle Island Restoration Network. As part of that agreement, the administration is now voluntarily removing 6 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico from potential oil and gas production.


The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management also wants to impose a 10-knot speed limit and restrict nighttime transit for oil and gas vessels throughout the area, significantly disrupting companies' ability to drill and produce oil and gas in the Gulf. The decision would effectively deter oil and gas companies from being able to use their vessels properly and efficiently in the Gulf of Mexico, making production unsafe and nearly impossible.


The agreement is based on the idea that ship traffic in the central and western Gulf of Mexico could disturb the habitat of the Rice's whale. This is based on a singular study with a flawed methodology, and federal statutes and regulations require much more evidence before such a sweeping decision is handed down. BOEM is also unilaterally imposing these restrictions on only oil and natural gas companies, which make up a small portion of the overall ship traffic in the area.


The restrictions imposed by this agreement would result in reduced bidding in the next offshore lease sale, reduced investment in the region, fewer jobs, and higher prices for all Americans. Fifteen percent of the country's crude oil is produced from Gulf of Mexico, which will be stifled due to the Biden administration's shortsighted decisions.”


To read the full amicus brief, click here.