Miss. Senators Back Bill to Open New Oil Exploration Areas, Lift GOMESA Caps

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) today joined in introducing legislation to expand American offshore energy exploration and increase revenue-sharing for Mississippi and other Gulf Coast states.

The Offshore Energy and Jobs Act of 2015 (S.1276), introduced by U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy (R-La.), would open parts of the Outer Continental Shelf for oil and gas exploration and lift the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006 (GOMESA) caps to provide additional revenue for Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Texas.

“The energy sector in Mississippi is diversified and growing, making it important for job creation and meeting our national energy goals,” Cochran said. “Our energy policies should be geared toward greater U.S. energy and economic security, and that means responsibly maximizing our own energy resources. This legislation would move us in that direction for the benefit of our nation and Mississippi.”

“Offshore energy exploration is important to boosting the Gulf Coast’s overall economy,” Wicker said. “America thrives when our Gulf Coast thrives. This bill would provide precisely what Mississippi needs to prosper – an increase in jobs, revenue, and use of our natural resources.”

S.1276 would redefine President Obama’s Eastern Gulf of Mexico drilling moratoria to open access to the largest undiscovered energy resources in areas 50 miles from the Florida coastline. The legislation also lifts the GOMESA revenue sharing cap to $700 million annually from the current $500 million, allowing the four coastal states greater say in the use of their offshore drilling revenues.

A 2014 study by Quest Offshore estimates that developing oil and gas operations in the eastern Gulf of Mexico could, by 2035, produce nearly one million barrels of oil equivalent per day and contribute more than $18 billion per year to the U.S. economy.

In addition to Cochran and Wicker, U.S. Senators David Vitter (R-La.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) are cosponsors of the Cassidy legislation.