Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Landrieu and drilling experts blast Salazar

The Independent Weekly has obtained a letter drafted by a panel of experts the Obama administration consulted before declaring a six-month moratorium on offshore drilling, claiming that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar misrepresented their positions:
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has some explaining to do. The panel of experts the Obama administration turned to for advice on how to address offshore drilling safety in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and ongoing gush of oil into the Gulf of Mexico are speaking out, saying they never agreed to the six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling and that Salazar misrepresented their position. The INDsider has obtained a copy of the letter penned by those experts, along with a fax they sent to Gov. Bobby Jindal and U.S. Sens. Mary Landrieu and David Vitter.

In no uncertain terms, the experts claim Salazar falsely implied that they supported the six-month drilling moratorium. However, in his May 27 report to President Barack Obama, the interior secretary said a panel of seven experts identified by the National Academy of Engineering “peer reviewed” his recommendations, among which is a six-month moratorium on all drilling in water depths of more than 500 feet. That ban went into effect a few days later, shutting down more than 30 rigs.

In their letter, the angry panelists clarify that what they reviewed was an earlier version of the secretary’s report that suggested a six-month moratorium only on new drilling — and only in waters deeper than 1,000 feet.

“We broadly agree with the detailed recommendations in the report and compliment the Department of Interior for its efforts. However, we do not agree with the six month blanket moratorium on floating drilling,” they write. “A moratorium was added after the final review and was never agreed to by the contributors.” The panel members say the blanket moratorium will not measurably reduce risk and will have a lasting impact on the nation’s economy, which may greater than that of the oil spill. They say Salazar’s report highlights the safety record of the industry in drilling more than 50,000 wells on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf, more than 2,000 of which were in water over 1,000 feet and 700 in depths greater than 5,000 feet. Noting that the safety of offshore workers is much better than that of the average worker in the U.S., they write, “We have been using subsea blowout preventers since the mid-1960s. The only other major pollution event from offshore drilling was 41 years ago. This was from a shallow water platform in Santa Barbara Channel drilled with a BOP on the surface of the platform.”
Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu used the revelation to blast Salazar.  From The Daily Caller:
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's response to Landrieu's concerns:  Don't worry.  We'll make BP pay for those 300,000 lost jobs:
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.
I wonder if Salazar has a panel of 15 legal experts that will back him up on that?

More from The Times-Picayune hereLaura Curtis at HotAir's Green Room raises the question, is the moratorium even legal?

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