After the BP oil spill, the Obama Administration offered little excuse for instituting a moratorium on deepwater drilling regardless of the fact that it brought one of the Gulf Coast’s main industries to a sudden halt. Despite federal judge Martin Feldman’s ruling on the moratorium and despite a federal appeals court upholding that decision, the U.S. Department of Interior issued a new moratorium on deepwater drilling this afternoon.
The new ban will not apply to a specific depth but instead “apply to any deep-water floating facility with drilling activities.” But changing the rules of the ban does not change the fact that the moratorium would do nothing to address the oil spill. Instead, it would unnecessarily destroy jobs in a region struggling to manage an environmental and economic crisis—largely in part because of the federal government.
In the face of a disaster that has already torn through the economic fabric of many coastal industries, denying jobs to the area is unjust. If the newly issued moratorium circumvents judicial ruling, more than 120,000 jobs could be lost in the Gulf Coast, and the ripples from these lost jobs would be seen throughout all sectors of the economy.
Furthermore, hopes of keeping energy production in the domestic sphere are dwindling in the face of the moratorium. Companies such as Baker Hughes are giving up on domestic offshore drilling and temporarily (at least, for now) moving their rigs to other countries more receptive to oil exploration. Others may become part of Venezuela’s nationalized fleet. Diamond Offshore Drilling is taking its rig to Egypt as a result of the government’s persistence to ban deepwater drilling.
But it’s not just the deepwater floating facilities that will be affected. The Obama Administration’s opposition to deepwater drilling has led to a de facto ban on shallow water drilling. CNN Money reports that “drillers in shallow water say they haven’t been issued permits since the April 20 explosion. The delay has already forced hundreds of layoffs, and many more could be on the way. ‘I’m almost out of business over here,’ said Paul Butler, president of Spartan Offshore, a small drilling company in Metairie, La.”
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said recently of the Gulf spill, “The president has and continues to believe that we have to be careful with what we’re doing, given the uncertainty about what happened 84 days ago.” One accident, no matter how tragic, is not indicative of an evolving pattern. The explosion of one rig could have been caused by any number of isolated factors unique to the BP rig and cannot be assumed to carry over to all deepwater drilling.
In fact, when DOI Secretary Ken Salazar had his list of recommendations for the President reviewed by the seven experts from the National Academy of Engineering, those experts rejected the offshore drilling moratorium, saying, “A blanket moratorium is not the answer. It will not measurably reduce risk further and it will have a lasting impact on the nation’s economy which may be greater than that of the oil spill. We do not believe punishing the innocent is the right thing to do.”
The uncertainty alone caused by the White House has brought offshore drilling to a halt and thus is having very real effects on the Gulf’s economy. This is not the time for political games. The Administration needs to listen to the two court rulings rejecting a ban on drilling and let the Gulf’s economy recover.
Kelsey Huber co-authored this post.