WASHINGTON, D.C., October 2, 2023 – U.S. Senator Katie Britt (R-Ala.) recently joined Senator Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and four of her Senate colleagues 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.
“The Biden Administration is continually putting a leftwing agenda ahead of common sense and the wellbeing of hardworking American families. Prioritizing partisan activism over economic opportunity and domestic energy dominance is irresponsible and further fueling persistent inflation. I’ll continue to fight back against President Biden’s reckless regulatory regime,” said Senator Britt.
“At the last minute, the Biden administration imposed additional mitigation measures the Department of the Interior previously said were unnecessary and removed six million acres offshore for Rice’s whales at the request of their environmental donors. Is there really no way for the whale to swim away from and around the area?” Senator Cassidy said. “We can protect wildlife, military activities, and vital energy production in the Gulf of Mexico at the same time.”
Joining Senators Britt and Cassidy in cosponsoring this legislation are Senators Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), and Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.).
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;
- Requires the Departments to complete a study demonstrating that any mitigation protocols developed to protect Rice’s Whales (RWs) in the Gulf of Mexico will not have a negative impact on supply chains, United States offshore energy production and generation, military activities, including 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; and
- Prohibits mitigation protocols and forbids evening transit or vessel speed or vessel operational restrictions.
Earlier this year, a coalition of radical environmental interest groups filed a petition with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to establish year-round vessel speed restriction zones and other mitigation measures for Rice’s whales—a species of whale that was only recognized by NOAA as a distinct species two years ago. NOAA also proposed a rule to establish critical habitat for the species where they acknowledged critical oil and gas and military activity occurs.
Similarly, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) reached a sue and settle agreement with radical environmental interest groups to establish vessel transit restrictions and other obligations for offshore oil and gas leaseholders only including removing millions of unleased acres from leasing. Although a federal district court recently ruled that BOEM could not do so, it’s expected these stipulations and the effort to withdraw acreage will appear in the next 5-year offshore oil and gas leasing plan.
The full bill text of the WHALE Act can be found here.