WASHINGTON, April 28 (UPI) -- A South Carolina congressman's question over state authority over maritime territory and concerns about transparency may curb frontier U.S. oil developments.
U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., was joined by state and local officials in expressing opposition to permits to conduct seismic testing to get a better understanding of potential oil and gas reserves off the coast of South Carolina.
The U.S. Interior Department in February released a draft proposal for 2017-22 for access to federal waters. Ten leases are planned for the Gulf of Mexico, three for offshore Alaska and one, a debut, for waters in the Atlantic.
Sanford said state authorities are sidelined from the federal decision-making process for operations off their coasts.
"It makes little sense to even conduct tests when the states and regions affected will have no say in the process of determining -- especially when factoring potential impacts on the environment, tourism, along with other risks inherent in the process," he said in a statement Monday.
The National Ocean Industries Association, an industry group lobbying for more offshore work, said about 1.34 million barrels of oil equivalent per day could be produced from the Atlantic basin by 2035. Sanford and other regional lawmakers say the risks to established industries outweigh the benefits.
For Alaska, advocacy group Oceana called on the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to examine disclosures made by Royal Dutch Shell about their exploration plans for the arctic waters off the coast of Alaska.
Oceana argues there's no proven way to respond should a catastrophic oil spill occur in arctic waters. Mark Templeton, a professor of law who joined the group's complaint from the Abrams Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School, said full disclosure is a shareholder concern.
"Without all of the relevant information, Shell shareholders, analysts and others cannot fully assess the company's financial prospects in the Arctic Ocean and cannot influence Shell's choices about whether to continue to make huge capital investments in the region," he said in a statement.
The American Petroleum Institute and eight other peer organizations said last month too many promising areas, including offshore Alaska, are currently excluded, or off the table completely, for energy explorers. The federal government said it's vetting thousands of comments on whether to open arctic waters near Alaska to drillers.