Residents of Gulf Coast receive more good news

Steven Powell Former federal prosecutor
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In addition to initial success of the BP’s ‘Static Kill’ operation, concerned residents of the Gulf Coast received a second piece of good news Tuesday when the government announced a possible early end to its drilling moratorium.

Still, the Department of Interior won’t give a specific time frame as to the early expiration of the ban as Gulf residents continue to criticize the administration for a lack of response to their outcries.

Last week, the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry unleashed advertisements in many Washington area newspapers calling attention to the economic harm of the drilling moratorium. A Bloomberg National Poll released in July showed that more than 70% of Americans nationwide oppose the drilling ban.

However, in an e-mail to The Daily Caller, the DOI stood by its initial stance on why the moratorium is necessary.

“The Deepwater Horizon/BP oil disaster has made it clear that we need better health, safety, and environmental standards for drilling operations, and we need better capabilities to control wild wells in deepwater. In addition we need to make sure that we have adequate spill response capabilities — and virtually all of the available assets are already deployed in response to the Deepwater Horizon/BP spill,” DOI Press Secretary Kendra Barkoff said in the e-mail.

“For all of these reasons, the temporary pause on deepwater drilling that Secretary Salazar has put in place is simply common sense, and we continue to stand behind it,” the e-mail continued.

The administration has faced criticism for the moratorium, as many opponents claim the White House has ignored the reality of its economic impact. Last week, Louisiana business officials testified before the Senate Small Business Committee attempting to bring awareness of the hardships the drilling ban inflicts on many Gulf Coast workers.

But the heartfelt testimonies of many Gulf Coast workers affected by the ban were not heard by anyone from the administration, who did not have a representative present. Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu and Republican Sen. David Vitter told the The Times-Picayune that they asked Christina Romer, head of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, and other administration officials to attend the hearing to defend the moratorium, but the request was not met.

However, concerned Gulf Coast workers may finally get some answers on the subject, as the DOI is holding a series of public forums Wednesday to discuss the future of the drilling ban in the Gulf.

Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, told reporters Tuesday the ban could be lifted  “significantly in advance” of the original November 30 deadline. The DOI claims the talks of the ban’s early end are strictly based on recent findings requested by Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar, and not on political reasons, as some have speculated.

Beyond hearings, the heated moratorium debate made its way to Congress last week, where the House voted in favor of a bill that would include an early end to the drilling ban. The Senate will not vote on the House’s version of the bill until it returns from recess in September.

Besides Vitter and Landrieu, other Louisiana officials have lashed out against the ban, including Republican Governor Bobby Jindal, who wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Post in July, “We don’t want to see the federal government create a second disaster, an economic disaster, for the people of our state…Thousands of Louisianans shouldn’t have to lose their jobs just because the federal government can’t do its job.”