Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, a key Democrat on the Senate energy committee, blasted Obama’s top offshore drilling official for the administration’s ongoing ban of deepwater drilling in the Gulf Coast, charging the decision could cost her home state more than 300,000 jobs.
Landrieu said a majority of experts consulted by Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar in deciding to impose the moratorium have come forward to her to express their disagreement with his decision.
In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill – with oil still gushing from more than a mile beneath the ocean’s surface – Salazar conducted a 30-day review of the safety and environmental precautions for offshore drilling rigs.
That review formed the basis for the decision to halt basis and was reviewed by 15 experts that are listed in the report.
Now Landrieu claims eight of those experts – a majority – disagree with Salazar’s decision based on their advice.
The revelation could undercut the credibility of Salazar’s decision to halt drilling in the Gulf that has been criticized by Republicans and industry officials as a knee-jerk, politically motivated reaction.
Salazar said the experts were not responsible for the decision. “The experts that were involved in the crafting of the report gave us their recommendations on the report … It was not their decision on the moratorium. It was my decision and the president’s decision to move forward.”
He also said the administration was concerned about the potential job losses from the decision.
“The jobs are a concern to us, but we want to make sure that as [offshore drilling] takes place, that it’s gonna be done in a safe way,” Salazar said.
However, as reported by The Daily Caller, the Interior Department does not appear to have estimated the job losses that would result from its decision as part of its 30-day review.
Notably, Salazar, pressed by Landrieu on the issue, said BP is financially responsible for paying the salaries of workers whose jobs are going to be lost because of the administration’s decision to ban drilling.
“If this long list of companies that are not oil companies, but oil service companies, have to either go out of business or take bankruptcy or layoff thousands of workers are you going to ask BP to pick up their salaries and to make them whole?” Landrieu asked.
“The answer to that is yes,” Salazar said, “BP is responsible for all the damages that flow from the BP oil spill and these are some of the consequences from that oil spill.”
It’s unclear whether BP faces any legal responsibility to pay the salaries of workers laid off directly because of a regulatory decision by the federal government. BP did not immediately return a request for comment.