Sunday, November 23rd, 2014
False
Santorum
Says President Barack Obama "has put (up) a stop sign … against oil drilling, against any kind of exploration offshore or in Alaska."

Rick Santorum on Monday, June 6th, 2011 in a Republican presidential debate

Rick Santorum says Barack Obama has raised a "stop sign" on oil exploration

During Monday’s Republican presidential debate in Manchester, N.H., former Sen. Rick Santorum blasted President Barack Obama’s policies on oil drilling.

Santorum said that Obama "has put (up) a stop sign … against oil drilling, against any kind of exploration offshore or in Alaska, and that is depressing. We need to drill. We need to create energy jobs."

We took a look at a similar statement in March, when Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. -- another GOP presidential contender -- told an audience at a conservative conference that "the number of new drilling permits under the Obama Administration since they came into office" is "one." We ruled that statement Pants on Fire.

We’ll refer back to our discussion of that claim here, updating it with more current information.

The most recent summary from Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, or BOEMRE -- the federal agency that oversees drilling -- is included in a document titled the "Status of Well Permits and Plans Subject to Enhanced Safety and Environmental Requirements."

The report says that 56 shallow-water permits for new wells have been issued since June 8, 2010, when new rules and information requirements were put into effect following the BP oil spill. Shallow-water drilling operations were not affected by the deep-water drilling moratorium following the spill.

In addition, since February of this year -- following the lifting of the moratorium and confirmation of the industry's ability to meet subsea containment requirements -- the government has approved 48 deep-water permits requiring subsea containment, covering 16 unique wells. Another 40 permits not requiring subsea containment have also been approved since October. The operators were required to come back and meet the modified standards.

So there’s been movement on offshore permits in the Gulf of Mexico under Obama. What about drilling elsewhere?

Arctic Ocean exploratory drilling permits continue to wend their way through the permitting process at the Department of Interior, said Richard Charter, a senior policy adviser for the environmental group Defenders of Wildlife.

A chart from BOEMRE confirms that no new offshore wells have been drilled in Alaska since Obama took office. However, only one such well has been drilled in the past dozen years, including eight years when a Republican, George W. Bush was president. So the shortage of drilling in Alaska is not exclusively an Obama-related problem.

Obama did announce in May that he was directing the Interior Department to conduct annual lease sales in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve. He also ordered a speed-up of seismic surveys of mid- and south-Atlantic coasts and new incentives for industry to develop unused leases both on and offshore.

We should note that while drilling permits haven’t disappeared entirely, the pace of approval has slowed, in large part because Obama has made clear that he wants drilling to be done safely and in an environmentally sensitive fashion.

Lee Hunt, executive director of the International Association of Drilling Contractors, said in March that there has been a "molasses effect" with permitting by the Obama Administration. Even shallow-water permits have fallen from their prior level, despite not being directly affected by the post-spill moratorium. Meanwhile, permits for deep-water wells are likely to be a third of what was projected prior to the gulf spill.

Andy Radford, senior policy adviser at the American Petroleum Institute, agreed that permit approvals dropped after the BP spill, but he added in March that the pace of permitting was picking up. "We'll get to the new normal eventually," he said.

All in all, then, Santorum’s claim is incorrect.

"None of this could be accurately even remotely characterized as a ‘stop sign,’" said Charter of Defenders of Wildlife.

We agree. It’s true that the Obama Administration pulled back the reins after the BP spill. But the administration has continued approving shallow-water wells, and it began to approve deep-water wells again after the moratorium was lifted six months ago. Just because the pace isn’t as fast as some would like doesn’t mean that Obama "has put (up) a stop sign … against oil drilling, against any kind of exploration offshore or in Alaska." At most, it would be a yellow light, and Santorum’s claim -- referring to curbs on "any kind" of exploration -- is over-broad. So we rate Santorum’s claim False.