Kempthorne Backs Sharing Royalties with Coastal States

Dirk Kempthorne yesterday became the first Interior secretary to endorse sharing offshore drilling revenues with coastal states.

Kempthorne said the Bush administration supports revenue sharing for new leases in new areas, after touring oil installations on the Gulf of Mexico. "I personally support that. The president supports that," he said.

Interior's Minerals Management Service issued a final notice of sale yesterday for Lease Sale 200, slated to occur Aug. 16. It encompasses 3,865 unleased blocks totaling about 21 million acres off Texas and Louisiana, MMS said. MMS estimates that the sale could prompt production of roughly 136 million to 262 million barrels of oil, and 0.81 trillion to 1.44 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Rep. Bobby Jindal (R-La.) and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who hosted Kempthorne's oil facility tour, expressed delight at Kempthorne's statement. Landrieu had blocked Kempthorne's nomination to the Interior post of 51 days over the offshore royalty issue. "I don't think his visit could be more timely," said Jindal.

Today, Kempthorne is touring Louisiana's wetlands and coast with the Fisheries and Wildlife Service (Rebecca Mowbray, New Orleans Times-Picayune, July 18).

How's it playing?

A Washington Post editorial: "The coastal states don't deserve billions of dollars in royalties from oil and gas that lies in federal waters. Nor does it make sense to replace the current moratorium on drilling, which is renewed from year to year and could thus potentially be lifted soon, with a statutory ban that would last until 2022" (July 15).

A Mobile Press-Register editorial: "It's time the states received some of the financial benefits of energy production to offset the risks they accept in allowing offshore drilling. Drilling in Lease Area 181, located in the waters off the Florida Panhandle, won't end the energy crisis. But any increase in domestic production would help ease the natural gas crunch that has hampered the nation's economy for nearly a decade" (July 17).

An Orlando Sentinel editorial: "We trust lawmakers in Tallahassee to be good stewards of Florida's environment and economy. Even so, we much prefer the Senate's latest proposal to the House's, because it would create a wider buffer and maintain it much longer. That's worth the tradeoff of allowing congressional control" (July 14).

A Washington Post editorial: "Although balancing energy needs with the environment is always hard, the prohibition on offshore extraction cannot be justified" (June 28).

A Tracy [Calif.] Press editorial: "Only 15 percent of federally controlled offshore areas are now open to exploration." The paper adds: "A 50-mile radius 'no drilling' zone would prevent energy-exploring states from endangering neighboring states that continue the drilling ban. Such compromising language should persuade moderates to consider endorsing the legislation" (June 29). -- DK

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