Lawmakers: U.S. should be doing more to block Cuban offshore drilling

A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers today blasted the Obama administration for not doing more to block offshore drilling off the island nation’s coast.

“We are extremely concerned over what seems to be a lack of a coordinated effort by the administration to prevent a state sponsor of terrorism . . . from engaging in risky deep-sea oil drilling projects that will harm U.S. interests as well as extend another economic lifeline to the Cuban regime,” the lawmakers, which are all of Cuban descent, said in a letter to President Barack Obama.

The letter signers, Reps. David Rivera, R-Fla., Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., and Albio Sires, D-N.J., insist that the Obama administration should have done more to stop planned drilling in Cuban waters, instead of coordinating with the first of several companies set to launch the work.

At issue are the plans by Repsol, a privately owned Spanish company, to drill an exploratory well in Cuban waters just 50 miles from the Florida coast as early as December.

The U.S. has no say in the company’s drilling — or in the Cuban regulations that will govern the work. And America’s power to influence the work is even more limited because of the 19-year-old U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, which generally bars commerce with the nation and caps the amount of American-made components in offshore drilling vessels and other equipment at 10 percent.

Nevertheless, the Interior Department has used its leverage with Repsol, which has leases to drill in American Gulf waters, to extract a commitment that the company will follow all U.S. standards for its Cuban drilling. Repsol also has agreed to allow Coast Guard and Interior Department inspectors to evaluate the Scarabeo 9 drilling rig that it is using for the work, before that vessel crosses into Cuban waters.

The Interior Department’s cooperation with Repsol may be illegal, the lawmakers charged:

“The support that the Department of Interior is providing to Repsol appears to be in contravention of the Trading with the Enemy Act, as such assistance will result in a financial windfall to the Cuban regime.”

And the lawmakers complained that Saipem’s Scarabeo 9 rig was likely designed “specifically to avoid U.S economic sanctions against Cuba,” with just under 10 percent of the software and equipment on the vessel coming from America. But that could still mean U.S. technology would “fall in the hands of a regime that supports terrorism,” the lawmakers said.

Obama administration officials have insisted that they are being pragmatic in working with Repsol to boost the safety of its drilling, since collaboration with Cuban authorities is off limits.

Michael Bromwich, the head of the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, said the assumption is that Repsol’s drilling is “a given,” so working with the company made more sense than stepping aside.

“The administration has made a decision that that’s not a responsible course of action,” Bromwich told reporters during a House hearing on the subject today. It “could lead to lots of undesirable developments if we tried to stop activities in waters that don’t belong to us, so we have rejected that alternative and instead have tried to do what we can to protect American interests.”

22 Comments

  1. Signal2Noise

    Another “manufactured” issue that is as ridiculous as the Cuban embargo itself. Lift the embargo and instead of Repsol, it would be CVX, XOM or COP, with contracts to HAL, SLB & BH.

    #1
  2. Bill in Houston

    No, Signal, you’re wrong.

    If Obama is REALLY SERIOUS about overthrowing dictators who oppress their people he’d have already bombed Castro into next week and sent down a flotilla of Cuban ex-pats armed with food and iPads.

    #2
  3. onevois

    Seems to me like this is more of an agenda by these congressional clowns.

    #3
  4. Scot

    Worst case, a repeat of BP in the Gulf, MAJOR GAME CHANGER, As the Cuban oil washes up on Atlantic beaches, there is no court in the world that can force Cuba to clean up the mess. The water current is 3 to 5 knots leading to the Gulf stream. Is there any doubt the Atlantic beaches are in harms way?

    #4
  5. Adler

    Seems to me these legislators seem to forget that Cuba is a sovereign nation regardless of which government is in power. The US has no power to halt any commercial activity by foreign companies in that nation. And, it wouldn’t matter if the Cuban government was democratically elected and operated under a Spanish translation of the Constitution of the United States.

    If Cuban permits a well 500 ft inside Cuban national waters that’s tough but that’s international law. That includes Cuba’s waters that extend up the west coast of Florida and are within the phony 100 mile moratorium for drilling off FL.

    #5
  6. David Gower

    We need to stick a straw in the oil play and suck everything out as fast as possible. Obama and his people have always had a problem knowing who’s side they were on.

    #6
  7. bob

    WE ARE BLOCING OUR OWN DRILLING RIGHT HERE. WE HAVE IDIOTS IN WASHINGTON DC BOTH PARTIES ARE IDIOTS PARTICULARLY THOSE MAINSTREAM REPUBLICAN RINOS – YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE TOO!

    THIS IS YOUR COMMIE OABAMIE
    MOMMIE IS A COMMIE
    DADDIE IS A COMMIE
    GRANDPARENTS ARE COMMIES
    MY MENTOR IS A COMMIE
    I APPOINT COMMIES
    I HAVE COMMIE FRIENDSVOTE OBAMIE COMMIE FOR BEST COMMUNISM
    THIS IS ALL ON GOOGLE AND YOUTUBE – YES IT IS
    THIS IS THE FUNNY PART AND THE PRESS AND MAINSTREAM MOVES ON LIKE NONE OF IT IS TRUE
    DID HE SAY THIS? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aufAtuTwKlE

    COMMIE OBAMIE WHY ARE WE DOING THIS? WE ARE PAYING MUSLIMS TO KILL CHRISTIANS – YUP YOU TAX DOLLARS AT WORK FOR JUST YOU

    http://visiontoamerica.org/5016/americans-are-paying-others-to-murder-christians/

    #7
  8. strengthof10

    Same ol’, same ol’. If the Cubans drill, our Atlantic beaches are in harms way. If Shell, BP or Exxon drill, it’s drill, baby drill!

    #8
  9. Jethro David Hightower

    What are we supposed to do to stop the drilling? Launch a missile strike? These Cuban American zealots are, in a word, nuts. We are talking about a foreign country and a sovereign nation, no matter how much we may dislike its government.

    #9
  10. alilunderstanding

    Do we always have to be so stupid? Are we still in that old cold war mindset about the bad old commie is going to come over here and take us over? After almost 50 years? With real mass murderers and killers (terrorists) in the world. And some of them homegrown as we see from those four old decrepit still lively in hate relics in Georgia. We are trippin’ off 2 old relics (the Castro brothers) who are barely hanging on themselves.The Pres. is right and sensible…again. Protect our coasts from spills as best we can, allow that 10% equip/tech to be used (remember jobs) and let the Cuban people make a buck. Better yet lift this this stupid embargo ( ain’t gonna happen anytime soon). Let American big oil go in a make some money they are ready and willing, remember jobs. And you may just find out that the Cuban people will be better off also This madness must end someday. Peace

    #10
  11. rts

    We should be down there drilling too. Part of the pool they will be draining is on our side of the border. The pool doesn’t care where the straws are stuck in, the Cuban wells will lower the pool on our side also.

    #11
  12. Signal2Noise

    Bill in Houston – you’re an idiot if you think (1) Obama wants to overthrow anyone and (2) that Cuba is worth bombing. Cuba is a threat to no one and the embargo is insane. Clearly you’ve never grown beyond a cold war mentality and are stuck in the 50s.

    #12
  13. Ray

    Obama is too busy blocking drilling in US waters…

    #13
  14. Castro will be dead in 5 years, Cuba has a right to drill off their coast. We have no say other than what was done to hold them to standards that are safe but as we know nothing is really safe. The best thing we can do is open talks and allow trade. 50 years of embargo have not worked put away the stick try the carrot.

    #14
  15. Bill51

    Nebraska repubs against the pipeline from Canada, Florida repubs against drilling. What’s a person to think?

    #15
  16. rts

    Seems like our oil shortage problem is Republican made.

    #16
  17. Paul V

    Playing nice with the Castro Brothers works as well as appeasing Hitler. One blow out and there goes the Everglades. An air strike on the drilling rig before it is operational is an act of defending our coastline.

    #17
  18. 3D02

    How about drilling off the coast of Florida? Is that a no? Well then by all means lets jump on the bandwagon of a few Cuban exile bootlickers and demand another country not drill within their waters.

    #18
  19. Diogenes

    If any AMerican PResident since JFK had been serious about shutting down Cuba with an embargo, He would have isolated and starved them into submission. No ships or planes, in or out. Nothing moves. It would not take long for the govenrment to collapse and THEN we send in the Cuban expats and a healthy contingent of GIs to secure America’s newest friend and ally and Caribbean Republic.

    #19
  20. PipelinePete

    Where o where is “The Freedom of the Seas” group. They look good on TV circling whaling boats. Don’t they feel the same responsibility for protecting Florida beaches from environmental harm. No they don’t because the Chinese might shoot back.

    #20
  21. Mike H.

    I don’t see any realistic diplomatic/legislative pressure the US can put on Cuba about their drilling, in light of how broad the current Cuban embargo is.

    #21
  22. El Foley

    The Cuban embargo is a relic and should have been done away with long ago. We should not let a relative handful of exiles in Miami dictate foreign policy for the other 300 million.

    #22