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A robocall we received last week, recorded by Fox News host and former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, claims that President Obama’s refusal to grant permits for offshore drilling is a key reason why gasoline prices have been rising.
Huckabee says the call is on behalf of the conservative group Presidential Coalition. In it, he claims "the potential for $5- or $6-a-gallon gasoline this year terrifies Barack Obama, and it's an issue that we can lay directly on his doorstep. Obama's veto of the Keystone pipeline, his refusal to drill in Alaska or grant permits for offshore drilling, his cozying up to the Middle East and weakness on the energy issue, that's the reason gas prices are soaring, and don't let anyone tell you different."
First, Obama never vetoed the pipeline, which originally had a route that was opposed by Nebraska's governor, a Republican; it has never come to his desk for a signature. Obama expressed opposition to a Republican bill designed to push it through without going through the normal approval process.
But we were more interested in checking one of the other key parts of Huckabee’s claim -- that the president had refused to grant permits for offshore drilling.
That claim has been around for a while. In March 2011, Rep. Michele Bachmann, also a Republican, reported that only one new oil drilling permit had been issued since Obama took office.
That statement earned her a Pants on Fire from PolitiFact National in part because Bachmann made her statement 15 days after Obama reported at a news conference that more than 35 new offshore drilling permits had been approved. (A moratorium on permits had been imposed to implement new safety and environmental standards in the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.)
To get the latest count for the Gulf of Mexico, we turned to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, BSEE.gov.
Since new shallow water well regulations were put into effect June 8, 2010, the bureau reports, 122 permits for drilling where the water depth is 500 feet or less have been approved.
New regulations for deep-water wells took effect Oct. 12, 2010. Since then, 167 have been permitted by the Obama administration. BSEE spokeswoman Eileen Angelico said 27 of those permits were for existing wells where drilling was suspended during the moratorium.
That leaves 140 new deep-water wells just in the Gulf of Mexico.
In fact, federal authorities have also approved two other drilling permits -- for wells off the Alaska coast.
Mike Huckabee is telling people who receive his robocall that Obama has refused to issue offshore drilling permits -- one reason, he says, why gasoline prices are soaring.
In fact, 140 permits for new deep-water wells have been issued since the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010. More than hundred shallow water permits have also been issued since the moratorium was lifted, but we didn't ask how many of those were new because it is clear, just from the deep-water data, that Huckabee's claim is bogus.
"Don't let anyone tell you different," Huckabee says in his robocall as he faults the president for not approving new wells.
Well, we're telling you different. His statement is so ridiculously at odds with the facts, we've tapped our own reservoir of flammable hydrocarbons to give him -- and by association, the Presidential Coalition -- a Pants on Fire!
(Get updates from PolitiFactRI on Twitter. To comment or offer your ruling, visit us on our PolitiFact Rhode Island Facebook page.)
Reuters.com, "House passes Keystone bill, Senate action uncertain," Feb. 16, 2011, accessed April 6, 2012
PolitiFact.com, "Michele Bachmann claims there has been just one new oil drilling permit issued since Obama took office," March 29, 2011, accessed April 6, 2012
BSEE.gov, "Status of Gulf of Mexico Well Permits; Subject to Enhanced Safety and Environmental Requirements in the Gulf of Mexico," accessed April 6, 2012
Interviews and e-mails, Eileen Angelico, chief, public affairs office, Gulf of Mexico Region, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, April 9-10, 2012
PressHerald.com, "With Obama's OK, Shell may soon start drilling for oil in arctic," Feb. 17, 2012, accessed April 6, 2012
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