Budget deal gives boost to US-Mexico Gulf treaty

Posted on December 11, 2013 at 9:55 am by Jennifer A. Dlouhy

Pacific Drilling's Santa Ana drillship struck oil at Chevron's Coronado prospect in the Gulf of Mexico. (Pacific Drilling)

WASHINGTON — Legislation to enact a long-stalled international treaty governing oil drilling along the U.S.-Mexico border in the Gulf is wedged into a new congressional budget deal.

There’s no guarantee the House and Senate will pass the bipartisan budget pact, but by including the treaty provision, lawmakers are putting Congress on a path to ratify the international agreement before a Jan. 17 deadline.

The underlying hydrocarbon agreement, first signed in February 2012 and ratified by Mexco two months later, sets a framework for oil and gas development along the countries’ maritime boundary in the Gulf known as the Western Gap. It would effectively allow U.S. companies to partner with Mexico’s Pemex to produce oil and gas in the 1.5 million-acre area, by encouraging commercial unitization agreements where resources straddling the boundary are effectively divided up.

The Senate passed a clean bill to implement the treaty in October, but a similar House-passed bill went further, including a provision to waive a Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring companies to disclose what they pay foreign governments to extract oil, gas and other resources. A dispute over that foreign payments waiver provision threatened to jeopardize the treaty’s implementation before Jan. 17, 2014, the deadline for ratification.

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