Military Leaders Conclude No Harm to Training by Gulf Oil Exploration

Jan 19, 2010, 15:45 ET from Securing America's Future Energy

WASHINGTON, Jan. 19 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Securing America's Future Energy (SAFE) today released an in-depth analysis of the potential impact on military activities, including training and weapons testing, deriving from expanded oil and natural gas exploration in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico. The paper—entitled Eastern Gulf of Mexico Oil and Gas Exploration and Military Readiness and produced in collaboration with Commonwealth Consulting Corporation, led by Col. Martin Sullivan, USMC (Ret.)—concludes that there is no credible evidence that expanded oil and natural gas exploration and development in the Eastern Gulf would adversely affect military missions in that area.

Based on MMS mean estimates, the Eastern Gulf contains 3.9 billion barrels of oil and 21.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas; a confirmed discovery in Destin Dome contains enough natural gas to supply 1 million households for 30 years.

"Our dependence on petroleum, much of it imported from hostile regimes and unstable regions, poses a direct threat to our nation's security," General Charles F. Wald, USAF (Ret.), former Deputy Commander, United States European Command, said. "If expanded energy production in the Gulf put our armed forces or our nation's readiness in danger, we would never support it. But this report makes clear that there is no conflict in the overwhelming majority of cases.  We can improve our energy security and remain at peak military readiness at the same time."

Specifically, the report examines earlier claims of potential impacts (which were made prior to the Defense Department putting into place systems to evaluate such claims), assesses rates of usage by the United States military in the affected areas, explains current methods of controlling airspace and surface actions in the Gulf, and analyzes encroachment factors. It concludes that the Pentagon until very recently had no systematic tools for measuring the effect outside factors had on training and testing, and now that those tools are being put into place, they are clearly showing that oil and natural gas production will not encroach on the military missions in the Gulf.

"It is also important to understand that there are, and have been for many years, statutes that explicitly provide for an appropriate resolution process that gives clear deference to national defense and national security," John F. Lehman, former Secretary of the United States Navy, said. "This process has worked in other offshore areas where oil and natural gas production and military training coexist, and it will certainly work in the Gulf."

Section 12 of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act of 1953 specifically states: "The United States reserves and retains the right to designate by and through the Secretary of Defense, with the approval of the President, as areas restricted from exploration and operation that part of the outer Continental Shelf needed for national defense." Section 5 of the Act, which deals with administration of leasing on the Outer Continental Shelf, states: ". . . cancellation [of leasing] may occur at any time, if the Secretary determines, after a hearing, that continued activity pursuant to such lease or permit would probably cause serious harm or damage to ... the national security or defense."

"There is no higher priority for me than the security of our nation and a big part of that is our nation's energy security," said Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND), a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. "We have the opportunity now to dramatically enhance that security through responsible energy production. This report shows that it is possible to expand production in the Outer Continental Shelf without compromising our need for military training and readiness."

"Allowing oil production in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico is included in the comprehensive energy legislation that has already passed out of the Senate Energy Committee in a bipartisan fashion," added Dorgan. "We need to finish the job by passing an energy bill this year. It is time for Democrats and Republicans alike to come together and act to strengthen our nation's energy security."

Securing America's Future Energy (SAFE) is an action-oriented, nonpartisan organization that aims to reduce America's dependence on oil and improve U.S. energy security to bolster national security and strengthen the economy.

SOURCE Securing America's Future Energy