The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Landrieu: 'Lift the Moratorium'

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted September 24, 2010

Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat from Louisiana, has taken the unusual step of blocking the confirmation of a Democratic administration's appointee. She says she will not allow a vote on Jack Lew, President Obama's choice for OMB director, until the offshore drilling moratorium is lifted.

In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, she writes, "I do not take this step lightly. But the fact is that the Administration's moratorium on new energy exploration is profoundly impacting the economy of the Gulf coast, while doing nothing to improve safety or environmental performance."

Landrieu also asserts that the administration doesn't understand the effect of the moratorium on Gulf Coast families. She says both deepwater and shallow-water drilling have "been brought to a standstill," hurting rig workers as well as nearly 3,000 businesses in Louisiana that support the drilling industry. Despite writing letters and doing everything within her power "to get the Administration's attention," she says Louisiana continues to suffer.

So far the administration has attempted to downplay the economic pain caused by the moratorium, perhaps as a way to justify the drilling freeze. In a recent report, it cited an analysis showing no more than 8,000-12,000 jobs are being affected by the drilling ban and noted that they won't be lost permanently. LSU Professor Joseph Mason, who examined the administration's report, calls the analysis flawed and says about 20,000 jobs are being threatened.

Although the moratorium is set to expire on November 30, Interior Deputy Secretary David Hayes yesterday hinted that it could lifted earlier. Speaking at a forum in Washington, he said, "We are interested in making this decision as soon as practicable." (Greenwire)

With so many jobs hanging in the balance, "as soon as practicable" is not soon enough. Consider how the administration's recent offshore policies have affected offshore drilling recent weeks, according to research conducted by The Wall Street Journal:

  • Only five new-well drilling permits have been issued in the past 20 weeks. Before the Deepwater Horizon accident, 12 to 15 permits were issued every month;
  • 15 of the Gulf's 46 shallow-water rigs are idle because they don't have permits to drill;
  • By the end of October, 70 percent of the shallow-water drillers will be idle;
  • Five deepwater rigs have left the Gulf; and
  • 30 million barrels of domestic oil production will be lost in 2011.

These impacts are not trivial. They affect not only the lives of U.S. energy workers, but also the energy security of the entire nation. The administration should lift the moratorium now.