KNAPP: GOP move on offshore drilling is money “shakedown”

Statehouse Report
June 29, 2018

By Frank Knapp Jr., special to Statehouse Report

President Trump has defended his desire to open all the country’s federal offshore waters to drilling for oil by saying that the United State must have energy dominance over all other nations.

But a recent Republican proposal in the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources would allow states to opt out of offshore drilling by paying “a lost production fee” to the federal government for depriving American taxpayers the revenue from oil drilling leases, according to Committee Chair Paul Gosar, R-Arizona.

At the committee’s June 14 hearing on this proposal. Mayor Ben Cahoon of Nags Head, N.C., exposed the contradiction between Trump’s justification for more offshore oil drilling and the GOP proposal.

“If we are going to have an energy policy and we are going to decide that we need the oil, why are we letting states then take some of that oil back off the table in exchange for a payment?” Cahoon asked.

Why indeed?

The United States either needs more oil or it doesn’t.  If it really needs it (we don’t), then South Carolina and other Atlantic coast states shouldn’t be able to pay a ransom to opt out to protect their tourism, commercial fishing and recreation economies.

However, we shouldn’t be surprised at this turn of events.

The man who will make the decision on expanding oil exploration and drilling in new offshore areas, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, has been honest about the purpose of more offshore drilling from the beginning of Administration’s proposal.

A year ago, Zinke admitted that his federal agency, which is responsible for the nation’s parks, needs more money.

“In 2008, the Department of Interior made about $18 billion a year in offshore (revenue) alone,”  Zinke told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in explaining the Administration’s 2018 budget request.

“Last year our revenue was $2.6 billion.  That’s a drop of $15.5 billion a year in revenue.  So, when we talk about infrastructure, the parks are about $11.5 billion behind which represents 73 percent of our total gap in maintenance and repair,” he said.

That’s why he was focusing on revenue, Zinke said.

The Republican proposal to “shakedown” coastal states over offshore drilling confirms the real purpose of the Administration’s intent to turn our nation’s oceans over to the petroleum industry.

It’s all about the money.

Knapp is the president and CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce.

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