The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee heard testimony Tuesday on legislation proposed for offshore cooperation with Mexico.
Carlos Pascual, U.S. special envoy for energy affairs at the State Department, testified although Mexico holds 10.2 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, production has declined because of the maturation of existing oil fields.
Nevertheless, he told lawmakers backing a cross-border agreement could support a Mexican recovery for the benefit of the region.
"Our energy trading relationship with Mexico is an important component of North American energy security," he said in his prepared remarks.
Jacqueline Savitz, a vice president at advocacy group Oceana, said the agreement carries too many risks. Too much focus on offshore energy development undermines a transition to a low-carbon renewable energy future.
"Our continued emphasis on expanding offshore drilling is slowing the necessary investment in clean energy projects that will stimulate the economy without the attendant risks, and help to alleviate the worst impacts of climate change," she said.
The U.S. Interior Department estimates the cross-border region in the Gulf of Mexico holds as much as 172 million barrels of oil and 304 billion cubic feet of natural gas.