A bipartisan effort to safeguard offshore energy development and military activities in the Gulf of Mexico was launched today as U.S. Senator Katie Britt (R-Ala.) joined forces with Senator Bill Cassidy (D-La.) and several Senate colleagues to introduce the Warding Off Hostile Administrative Lease Efforts (WHALE) Act. This legislation is aimed at preventing the U.S. Departments of Commerce and the Interior from issuing maritime regulations pertaining to the Rice’s whale, which some believe could hinder vital economic and security interests.
Senator Britt, an advocate for domestic energy production, voiced her concerns about what she sees as a prioritization of partisan interests over the well-being of American families. “The Biden Administration is continually putting a leftwing agenda ahead of common sense and the well-being of hardworking American families. Prioritizing partisan activism over economic opportunity and domestic energy dominance is irresponsible and further fueling persistent inflation. I’ll continue to fight back against President Biden’s reckless regulatory regime,” she declared.
Senator Cassidy echoed these concerns, particularly criticizing last-minute mitigation measures imposed by the Biden administration, which he deemed unnecessary. He questioned the need to restrict a significant portion of offshore territory for Rice’s whales, stating, “At the last minute, the Biden administration imposed additional mitigation measures the Department of the Interior previously said were unnecessary and removed six million acres offshore for Rice’s whales at the request of their environmental donors. Is there really no way for the whale to swim away from and around the area? We can protect wildlife, military activities, and vital energy production in the Gulf of Mexico at the same time.”
This legislation, known as the WHALE Act, is co-sponsored by Senators Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), and Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.). The WHALE Act includes several key provisions, including:
– Prevention of the Secretaries of Commerce and Interior from issuing rules or offshore oil and gas lease requirements that establish vessel speed or operational restrictions.
– Mandating that the Departments complete a study demonstrating that any mitigation protocols developed to protect Rice’s Whales in the Gulf of Mexico will not negatively impact supply chains, U.S. offshore energy production, military activities, commercial and recreational fishing, or maritime commerce.
– A requirement for the Secretary of Commerce to develop mitigation protocols that utilize real-time location monitoring and location information.
– Prohibitions on mitigation protocols that impose evening transit, vessel speed restrictions, or vessel operational restrictions.
The backdrop for this legislation involves a coalition of environmental groups that petitioned the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) earlier this year to establish year-round vessel speed restriction zones and other mitigation measures for Rice’s whales. This species was recognized as distinct by NOAA just two years ago. Furthermore, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) reached a settlement with environmental groups to establish vessel transit restrictions and other obligations for offshore oil and gas leaseholders. This settlement also involved the removal of millions of unleased acres from leasing, although a federal district court recently ruled against BOEM. It is anticipated that these stipulations and withdrawal efforts may resurface in the next 5-year offshore oil and gas leasing plan.
The complete text of the WHALE Act is available for review here.