The people's voice of reason

Tuberville and Britt sent a letter to the Departments of Commerce and Interior expressing concerns that new administrative rules could damage Alabama's coastal economy

U.S. Senators Tommy Tuberville (R-Alabama) and Katie Britt (R-Alabama) joined U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana) and five other Senate colleagues in sending a letter to U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland expressing concerns with current and future rulemakings regarding protections and Critical Habitat designations for Rice's whales ahead of upcoming budget hearings in the Senate.

"While NOAA and BOEM's data is incomplete, we do have a robust understanding of the economic impact of the Gulf of Mexico," the Senators wrote. "Our ports provide a clear view of commercial activity in and out of the Gulf. In Texas, the Port of Houston generated $439 billion in statewide economic value in 2022. Ports across the state of Louisiana generated $182 billion in statewide economic impact, which includes nine ports located directly on the coast. In Alabama, the Port of Mobile generated more than $85 billion in total economic activity in 2021. Imposing restrictions on development in the Gulf of Mexico would directly harm the economic activity and jobs across coastal communities."

The Senators are concerned that current and potential rulemakings would jeopardize energy exploration in the Gulf, compromise U.S. national security, and challenge supply chain stability. The Sens. Claim that Biden administration has repeatedly implemented rules based on outdated data that lacks sound scientific backing, including a recent proposal to establish a 28,000-square-mile Critical Habitat for the Rice's whale within the Gulf of Mexico.

"We write to express deep concerns with recent proposed rulemakings and potential future actions concerning the Rice's whale," wrote the Sens. "The U.S. Department of Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), including the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), as well as the U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), have actively pursued unnecessary measures for the Rice's whale at the expense of communities along the Gulf of Mexico. While we appreciate that NOAA denied the petition to establish vessel speed measures in the Gul and that BOEM removed Rice's whale stipulations from Lease Sale 261. We strongly urge that NOAA, NMFS, and BOEM refrain from advancing regulations that lack sound scientific backing."

The Senators say that this move was made by the administration despite a lack of evidence supporting the need to establish one. They argue that the Rice's whale is currently protected under the Endangered Species Act, and no evidence has been presented to support the need for an expanded Critical Habitat area.

Joining Senators Tuberville, Britt, and Cassidy in the letter are U.S. Senators John Kennedy (R-Louisiana), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Mississippi), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi).

Environmentalists claim that less whales will be harmed from collisions with ships if the speed limit in the Gulf of Mexico was lowered to ten knots, ships would stop running at night, and all ships would post a sentry to look for whales as they traverse the Gulf. The Sens. are concerned that that would potentially negatively impact shipping out of the Port of Mobile – Alabama's only blue water port. The Alabama Senators are also concerned that limiting oil and natural gas exploration in the Gulf to protect the whales would hurt the state economy while further contributing to spiraling energy prices that have harmed Alabama businesses and families alike.

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