Saturday, July 28, 2007

Cuba Oil Exploration

INTRODUCTION OF BILL ALLOWING AMERICAN PARTICIPATION IN CUBAN ENERGY EXPLORATION PROJECTS -- (Extensions of Remarks - July 26, 2007)

SPEECH OF
HON. MARK UDALL
OF COLORADO
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
WEDNESDAY, JULY 25, 2007


* Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Madam Speaker, today I am introducing a bill to permit Americans and American companies to take part in exploring for and development of energy resources offshore of Cuba and other nearby countries.

* The bill would make an exception to all laws, Executive Orders, and regulations that now prohibit exports to or imports from Cuba or transactions in property in which a Cuban national has an interest. This exception would apply to transactions necessary for the exploration for and development of hydrocarbon resources--such as petroleum or natural gas--from offshore areas under the control of Cuba or another foreign government that are contiguous to the exclusive economic zone of the United States. The bill would also permit Americans to travel to, from, and within Cuba in connection with such exploration and development activities.

* Madam Speaker, since coming to Congress I have supported efforts to relax some of the unduly restrictive laws and policies that prevent American companies from doing business in Cuba . The legislation I am introducing today would continue those efforts.

* It responds to a U.S. Geological Survey report published last year that estimates some 4.6 billion barrels of oil and 9.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas could lie offshore from Cuba , in the North Cuba Basin.

* Cuba's share of the Gulf of Mexico was established in 1977 through treaties with the United States and Mexico. So there is no dispute about the status of the area, and it is my understanding that Cuba has divided its offshore territory into 59 exploration blocs and opened them up to foreign companies in 1999. Already, several foreign companies have indicated interest in some of these blocs, including a Canadian firm as well as companies from China and Venezuela.

* However, our trade embargo continues to prevent American companies from seeking similar opportunities. I think this makes no sense, and the bill I am introducing today would change that. Under the bill, the only restriction would be that any exploration or development by an American company offshore from Cuba would be subject to the same conditions for protection of fish, wildlife, and the environment as would be the case if the activities were carried out in the parts of the outer continental shelf under the control of the United States.

* Madam Speaker, I am not in favor of unlimited development of oil and gas wherever those resources may be found. In our country, I think some areas should remain off-limits to such activities, and that in some other areas it should be subject to restrictions to protect other resources and values. And if Congress were called to make similar decisions about resources in areas controlled by Cuba I well might support similar restrictions for the offshore areas the government of Cuba has decided to make available for exploration and development.

* But I think that once the government of Cuba has made that decision, our Government should not insist on preventing American companies from seeking the opportunity to take part in those activities--especially since the American energy industry is unrivalled for its technical expertise and its ability to meet the technical challenges involved. My legislation would allow them to seek that opportunity.

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