Thirty business organizations and elected officials across Louisiana wrote to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management expressing strong support for expanded leasing activity off the U.S. coast.

A letter organized by Greater New Orleans Inc. highlights the importance of the oil and gas industry to the Gulf Coast’s economy.

“Louisiana is the epicenter of America’s nascent energy boom, which has the potential to both fuel economic growth and lead the entire nation toward true energy independence and security,” said Michael Hecht, president and CEO of GNO Inc. “In order to ensure this opportunity is fully maximized, we urge the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to include all 26 Outer Continental Shelf planning areas in the development of the federal government’s 2017-2022 offshore oil and gas leasing program.”

The Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association said in a letter it sent that the 2017-2022 leasing plan should include areas of existing exploration and development activities — western, central and a small portion of the eastern Gulf of Mexico and Alaska, as well as new areas where there has been little to no activity — the mid- and south Atlantic and other areas in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific.

“It is important to consider all areas of the OCS to strengthen our country’s energy security, meet our nation’s energy demands, and provide a much-needed boost to our nation’s economy,” wrote LMOGA President Chris John and Offshore Committee Director Lori LeBlanc.

The GNO-organized letter says “continued and expanded access to all areas of the Gulf of Mexico will increase these economic gains for Gulf Coast residents and ensure that the Gulf Coast continues to supply American consumers across the country with reliable crude oil, petroleum products and natural gas.”

The letter said Quest Offshore Resources has estimated that an increase in Gulf of Mexico offshore oil and gas activity could support 180,000 jobs across the Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana region.

LMOGA noted that offshore energy development managed by the existing 2012-2017 plan is permitted in only 13 percent of federal waters.

It said a 2011 study by Wood-Mackenzie suggests developing all of the current “off limit” areas in the OCS would add an additional $127 billion in new government revenue by 2020.

“More domestic energy reduces our reliance on energy from other regions of the world where conflict can abruptly impact energy markets,” LMOGA said. “It would also produce significant and high-paying jobs to Americans in communities still reeling from the recent recession, and significantly boost royalties paid to the federal treasury, not to mention the tremendous sales that could be realized by local businesses supporting the energy industry. ... The vibrant offshore oil and gas industry in the Gulf of Mexico has proven to provide long-lasting and undisputable economic and energy security benefits not only to Louisiana, but also to the entire nation. These are direct benefits that states across our country could experience with the opening of additional OCS territories for energy development,” the letter concludes.

In its comments, LMOGA also requested that federal officials lift the offshore revenue-sharing cap for Gulf states and update the revenue distribution formula to reflect historic and current energy production off of a state’s coast.