Fights the Biden Administration’s radical anti-energy agenda
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) joined U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Katie Britt (R-AL), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), and Roger Wicker (R-MS) in introducing the Warding Off Hostile Administrative Lease Efforts (WHALE) Act to prevent the U.S. Departments of Commerce and the Interior from issuing maritime rules related to the Rice’s whale that would impede offshore energy development and military activities.
“We all want to protect wildlife and promote conservation efforts, but the Biden administration’s approach lacks transparency, scientific evidence, and excludes the voices of educated stakeholders and experts in favor of select activists. Instead of truly aiming to protect Rice’s whales, the administration consistently tries to stonewall America’s domestic energy production through burdensome and unnecessary regulations,” said Senator Tuberville. “I am proud to introduce this legislation to require the Administration to do its due diligence on supply chain operations and offshore drilling activities before issuing onerous rulemakings. Through this legislative effort, we will actually be helping the whales through the development of the whale monitoring systems for vessels under the 2022 NDAA.”
U.S. Representative Clay Higgins (R-LA-03) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The WHALE Act:
- Prevents the Secretaries of Commerce and Interior from issuing rules or offshore oil and gas lease requirements or recommendations that establish vessel speed or vessel operational restrictions until necessary studies are completed;
- Requires the Departments to complete a study demonstrating that any mitigation protocols developed to protect Rice’s whales in the Gulf of Mexico will not have a negative impact on supply chains, United States offshore energy production and generation, military activities, including military readiness, and United States commercial and recreational fishing or maritime commerce;
- Requires the Secretary of Commerce to develop mitigation protocols that make use of real-time location monitoring and location information to detect whales’ presence and reduce their risk of injury, as designed and implemented in the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA);
- Prevents the designed mitigation protocols from including restrictions on evening transit or vessel speed or vessel operations, and
- Requires a report with necessary findings of the study be submitted to Congressional Commerce and Energy committees.
According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), there are approximately 51 Rice’s whales left in existence, qualifying them as 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 habitats are unclear, with administration officials citing the need for more scientific research and analyses on the whales’ existence.
The Biden administration has taken numerous actions claiming to protect the Rice’s whales at the expense of our economy. 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 the potential presence of the Rice’s whale. Additionally, various restrictions have been imposed on all vessels, including requiring a dedicated crew member to watch for whales; speed limits; use of an 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.
On September 7, 2023, Senator Tuberville sent a letter to the NOAA Director Richard Spinrad and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Liz Klein, criticizing these decisions and calling attention to the severe economic impacts the rule would have for Alabama businesses and the Gulf’s energy industry as a whole.
On September 20, 2023, Senator Tuberville and National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA) President Erik Milito co-authored an op-ed in Fox News warning about the damage of the Biden administration’s proposed rule which would expand the protected area for Rice’s whales to cover 28,000-square-miles.
The public comment period for the rule is open until October 6.
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.