WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)–Republicans in the House of Representatives announced Wednesday a series of public hearings about permits to drill for oil off U.S. shores, their latest effort to pressure the Obama administration on the contentious issue.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will testify at a March 3 hearing, the House Natural Resources Committee said Wednesday. Michael Bromwich, head of the regulatory agency that oversees offshore drilling, will testify before the committee on March 30. On March 16, the committee will hear testimony from “states, communities, and local businesses” affected by a lack of permits in the Gulf of Mexico, the committee said in a statement.
The administration has lifted a moratorium on new offshore permits in deep water but has yet to green-light a new deep-water project and has slowed the pace of permits issued for shallow water drilling. Administration officials have cited new safety protocols instituted the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the need for more expert staff.
Yet, the issue remains at the top of a list of demands from Republicans and Gulf Coast Democrats, who have used every opportunity to press the administration for the end of what they say is a “de-facto moratorium” on offshore drilling that is causing economic pain in Louisiana and other states.
Now the permitting issue promises to be a focus of the debate over the administration’s budget proposal, which proposed higher inspection fees for drillers and more funding to regulate the offshore industry.
“With gasoline prices rising and political unrest spreading throughout the Middle East, the United States must act now to responsibly develop our own American energy resources,” said Rep. Doc Hastings (R. Wash.), chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, in a letter to colleagues Wednesday.
Hastings said the committee will also hold a field hearing in Louisiana in April.
-By Ryan Tracy, Dow Jones Newswires