The Gulf states thought they finally caught a break last month when a federal judge struck down the Obama administration’s deep-water oil drilling ban, but it turns out they were wrong. With the federal government holding all the cards, a de facto ban on drilling continues, as does the economic harm to the region.
Today, a three-judge panel from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments on the lower court decision, with the Obama administration seeking to reinstate the ban and oil companies looking to uphold the prior ruling. But as The Times-Picayune reports, it could take months for the court to make a final decision, during which time Louisiana – and other Gulf states – will remain in a moratorium limbo.
Though there is no official moratorium in place right now, the de facto moratorium exists through a combination of government-fueled uncertainty in the industry, legal rigamarole, and bureaucratic red tape. According to reports, the federal government’s plan to issue a second moratorium “has effectively ‘chilled’ the oil industry,” and the government may be dragging its feet on the appeals process in order to prolong the virtual ban. On top of that, the U.S. Department of Interior can further the de facto moratorium “through tough new safety regulations and by extending the time it takes to review drilling applications.”
And who’s bearing the brunt of the federal government’s drilling ban ballet? Those folks in the Gulf region who depend on the offshore gas and oil industry for their livelihoods.
Studies show that more than 200,000 jobs are tied to the offshore drilling industry and 35,000 workers are directly involved each day when the rigs are in use. The American Petroleum Institute forecasts that if the drilling ban continues, more than 120,000 jobs could be lost in the Gulf Coast and key resources abandoned or moved elsewhere.
While that court battle plays out, more bureaucracy and roadblocks to protecting the Gulf abound. Jefforson Parish, La., proposed building two, 2-mile long rock barriers in Barataria Bay to stop oil from reaching into the area. And just like before, the federal government turned down the plans with no alternative answer in sight. On Tuesday, Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) said, “So far we’ve not heard an alternative plan; all we’ve seen is bureaucracy and roadblocks.”