WASHINGTON, Oct. 18, 2017 - The House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held a legislative hearing recently on a discussion draft of the “Accessing Strategic Resources Offshore Act.” The bill, known as the ASTRO Act, is designed to improve access to Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) energy resources through more reliable leasing and an improved revenue sharing framework with coastal states. The legislation is part of the Natural Resources Committee’s broader overhaul of federal lands energy policy.  

“Our offshore oil and gas industry provides our nation and the world with a safe and reliable source of energy, billions of dollars in revenues to the government, and has resulted in the creation of millions of direct and indirect jobs across the country,” said the subcommittee’s chairman, Paul Gosar, R-Ariz. “It is critical that we maintain and increase access to offshore exploration and production to improve upon these trends.”

Under the Obama administration, 94 percent of America’s OCS lands were off limits to development, according to a subcommittee release.

One witness, South Carolina State Sen. Stephen Goldfinch, said that needs to change.

“Natural gas and oil exploration in the Atlantic could be an opportunity for our state to see much-needed additional economic improvements, investment and job creation,” Goldfinch told the lawmakers. “Years of experience have shown that exploration and production can exist safely alongside tourism and fishing industries, as well as the military… If oil and gas is to come to South Carolina, I cannot imagine one of my constituents demanding the state decline much needed revenues for roads, schools and healthcare.”

Some studies show that opening the OCS in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Eastern Gulf would create 840,000 new jobs and generate over $200 billion in revenues.

“I believe that the partnership that has worked so well for the interior states to develop federal [onshore] resources should be established for the coastal states that also host federal offshore mineral develop,” said Mary Landrieu, former U.S. Senator from Louisiana. Landrieu is now senior policy advisory at Van Ness Feldman LLP.

The ASTRO Act establishes revenue sharing for states in the Mid- and Southern Atlantic planning areas in an attempt to fairly compensate the qualifying producing states, and to ensure disbursement certainty into the future.

“Our nation should produce more of the oil and natural gas Americans need here at home,” said Erik Milito, director of upstream and industry \operations at the American Petroleum Institute. “And it can. This would strengthen our energy security and help put downward pressure on prices while also providing many thousands of new jobs for Americans and billions of dollars in additional revenue for our government.”

Supporters say the ASTRO Act adds flexibility to the national oil and gas leasing process by giving the Secretary of the Interior the authority to conduct lease sales in areas excluded from approved five-year plans. It also limits the president’s authority to withdraw OCS areas from leasing.

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