WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) applauded the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA)announcement that it has formally denied a petition from non-government organizations to establish a mandatory 10-knot speed limit and other vessel related mitigation measures in the Gulf of Mexico following opposition from Republican Senators, including Senator Tuberville. This particular regulation was part of a laundry list of concerns raised by Sen. Tuberville. Most of the others are still being pushed by the Biden Administration, including the controversial Critical Habitat designation and burdensome restrictions on the oil and gas industry.
“I was glad to see the NOAA come to their senses and reject this part of the Biden Administration’s overreaching regulatory agenda in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Senator Tuberville. “Unfortunately, we still have a long way to go. Designating a Critical Habitat for the Rice’s whale throughout this expansive area would impose undue burdens and restrictions on all vessel traffic, especially in and out of the Port of Mobile in Mobile, AL. The Port of Mobile covers over 4,000 acres, generates nearly 313,000 jobs, provides approximately $2 billion in state and local tax impacts, and $85 billion in economic value to Alabama as a whole. I will continue to fight back against Joe Biden’s attempts to make us reliant on our enemies for energy when we can be producing it right here in the United States, and especially in Alabama.”
According to NOAA, there are approximately 51 Rice’s whales left in existence, deeming them endangered and in need of certain protections covered by the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). Rice’s whales are located in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico between 100- and 400- meters in depth. Their specific locations and habitat are unclear, citing the need for more scientific research and analyses on the whales’ existence. It is worth noting that according to the National Marine Fisheries Service on its own website, only “a single Rice’s whale was observed in the western Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Texas.”
The Biden administration has taken numerous actions claiming to protect the Rice’s whales at the expense of our nation’s economic interests. In September, the Gulf Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Lease Sale 261 (GOM Lease Sale 261) Final Notice of Sale was posted, as required under the Inflation Reduction Act, but with over 6.3 million acres removed from the sale due to potential presence of the Rice’s whale. Additionally, various restrictions have been imposed on all vessels, including a dedicated crew member to watch for whales; speed limits; use of automatic identification system for vessels of a certain size; and to the maximum extent practicable, avoid transit through the Expanded Rice’s Whale Area after dusk and before dawn, and during other times of low visibility. This Administration continues to target the oil and gas industry, inhibiting the ability of our nation to become energy independent.
Senator Tommy Tuberville represents Alabama in the United States Senate and is a member of the Senate Armed Services, Agriculture, Veterans’ Affairs, and HELP Committees.