The Obama administration’s lawyers claim that economic harm must be disregarded despite the devastation of the Gulf Coast economy by the president’s moratorium on deepwater drilling: Protecting the environment is the only issue that matters, they say.
This was no slip of the tongue. Repeatedly during the court hearing on the moratorium (and in its briefs), the Justice Department lawyer asserts that the economic damage must be ignored whenever the Secretary of Interior makes a decision on environmental grounds.
While Obama’s minions chastise House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) for supposedly belittling economic crisis (They say he compared it to an ant.), the president’s own lawyers claim the huge financial harm that Obama is causing the Gulf states must be ignored entirely.
Although the courts have lifted the original moratorium, fears that it will be reinstated are still suppressing any new deepwater drilling, with or without the moratorium.
Appearing before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, lawyers for the State of Louisiana argued in their brief:
Should the Court extend the drilling moratorium for even a day longer, the State’s economic problems will only get worse, effectively turning an environmental disaster into an economic catastrophe for the State.
They continued, “each day it is in place, millions of dollars of income are lost to the citizens of Louisiana, and by the State.”
The offshore oil and gas industry, operating in the Gulf of Mexico outside of the territorial boundaries of Louisiana, has a tremendous economic impact on the State, estimated to be approximately $3 billion per year. This comes not only from salaries and wages of workers on the rigs, but also from the myriad of Louisiana companies doing business with the offshore industry, including contract employment companies, boat companies, tool rental companies, equipment servicing companies, and offshore food service companies, among many others. Because of the pervasiveness of the oil and gas industry in Louisiana, the entire economy is affected, from grocery stores and restaurants to banks and schools.
How did the federal government respond? By saying the economic ruin to thousands of Americans just doesn’t matter.
That’s no exaggeration. At last week’s hearing before the appellate court, the lawyer for the Interior Department repeated several times that any damage to the environment automatically trumps any damage to the economy that occurs by overzealous protectionism. Here are four audio excerpts, assembled into one, of the multiple mentions by Justice Department lawyer Michael Gray:
To President Obama, it may suffice to say that people can go on unemployment if they lose their jobs because of his drilling moratorium, but most people prefer to work, not collect unemployment.
Former Congressman Ernest Istook, who attended the court hearing, is now a Distinguished Fellow at The Heritage Foundation. First appeared at www.foundry.org.