Dunn presses Feds on drilling surveys in the Gulf’s military range

WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Neal Dunn, M.D. (FL-02) Thursday pressed the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) about 12 environmental surveys it commissioned in areas of the Gulf of Mexico that are off-limits to oil and natural gas leasing.

In a letter to BOEM Acting Director Dr. Walter Cruickshank, Dunn questions the necessity of these surveys and seeks information on what they discovered. Congressman Matt Gaetz (FL-01) joined Dr. Dunn on the letter.

“Given that leasing or pre-leasing activity in the eastern Gulf of Mexico is prohibited by law until 2022, and there is no foreseeable leasing activity thereafter, we have concerns regarding the need for these taxpayer-funded surveys,” the lawmakers wrote.

The Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006 (GOMESA) prohibits leasing or pre-leasing activities in the eastern Gulf of Mexico until 2022 in order to allow for military training and testing essential to our national defense.

“Critically, the moratorium allows for the maintenance of the Joint Gulf Range Complex, an incomparable ‘national asset [and] national treasure,’ according to a former 325th Fighter Wing commander. There is strong support in Congress and within the Department of Defense for maintaining this test and training range,” the lawmakers added.

The surveys BOEM commissioned included two- and three-dimensional seismic surveys, electromagnetic surveys, and sea-floor sampling. The most recent survey permit was issued in December 2016. BOEM is the Interior Department agency responsible for leasing off-shore tracts for oil and natural-gas drilling.

Earlier this week, Dr. Dunn led a bipartisan letter with many members of the Florida delegation urging Defense Secretary Mattis to support the current moratorium on drilling activities in the Gulf and work to extend it past its expiration in 2022.