[StBernard] Sen. Mary Landrieu fights deepwater drilling moratorium with hold on Obama nominee
westley at da-parish.com
Sat Sep 25 10:56:19 EDT 2010
Sen. Mary Landrieu fights deepwater drilling moratorium with hold on Obama
Published: Friday, September 24, 2010, 6:00 AM
Bruce Alpert, Times-Picayune
In a move sure to anger the White House and her Democratic colleagues,
Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu announced Thursday that she will block
President Barack Obama's nominee to head the Office of Management and Budget
until the administration eliminates or significantly modifies the moratorium
on deepwater oil and gas drilling.
Jack Lew, who served as OMB director in the Clinton administration, has won
rare bipartisan support for his nomination, getting a 22-1 favorable vote
Thursday by the Senate Budget Committee and an earlier 9-0 vote by the
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
Landrieu, who in previous years held up votes as she sought offshore oil
production revenue sharing for Louisiana and other states, said she took the
unusual step because the "devastating" moratorium remains in place,
threatening the region's economy.
She also complained of what she called a de facto moratorium on
shallow-water drilling since the BP disaster.
"Although Mr. Lew clearly possesses the expertise necessary to serve as one
of the president's most important economic advisers, I found that he lacked
sufficient concern for the host of economic challenges facing the Gulf
Coast," Landrieu said in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. "The
fact that the most acute of these economic challenges, the moratorium,
results from a direct and reversible federal action only services to harden
my stance on Mr. Lew's nomination."
Landrieu's action could jeopardize Senate plans to confirm Lew before it
recesses in the next week or two so members can campaign for the mid-term
"Jack Lew has received overwhelming, bipartisan support from senators across
the spectrum in both Committees," OMB spokesman Kenneth Baer said.
"Especially during this critical time in our economy and in our fiscal
situation, the Senate should move quickly to vote on his confirmation before
it recesses at the end of the month."
Regan Lachapelle, Reid's spokeswoman, declined to comment.
Since he took office in January 2009, Obama has had a tough time with
"holds," the system in which a lone senator can block a nominee from getting
an up-or-down vote. The vast majority of the holds have been placed by
Republicans, not Democrats such as Landrieu.
Ken Salazar, the Interior Secretary who imposed the moratorium, said it was
critical after the April 20 BP oil spill to develop improved regulatory
procedures, as well as a better spill response plan before deepwater
drilling should resume.
Salazar said Wednesday that's he's expecting a report in the next two weeks
on whether the moratorium could be modified or shortened without
jeopardizing safety, leaving the possibility it could be lifted before its
Nov. 30 expiration date.
Salazar said the report, being put together by Michael Bromwich, director of
the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, is
designed to put in place "reforms that are raising the bar for the oil and
gas industry's practices, as well as to help inform recommendations on
whether and how to lift the current deepwater drilling suspension."
Landrieu said she's been frustrated that administration officials continue
to disregard the devastating economic impact of the moratorium, not only on
rig workers, but nearly 3,000 businesses in Louisiana that provide support
for the industry.,
"I have done everything within my power to get this administration's
attention," Landrieu said. "But the policy remains in effect, and
Louisiana's economy continues to suffer."
But in an interagency report last week, the Obama administration said the
impact of the moratorium has been far less than originally predicted.
According to the report, the actual job losses are likely to run between
8,000 to 12,000. Of the 46 rigs affected by the moratorium, the report said
41 remain in the Gulf region, and a majority of rig operators are retaining
employees because they don't want to go through the expense of finding
replacements who would need substantial and expensive training when the
Industry and state officials have pointed out that a loss of 12,000 jobs is
not insignificant and that companies are taking losses and curtailing
investments to keep things in place in hopes of an early lifting of the
drilling ban. They also say that the job losses are still likely in the
future if the government's post-moratorium permitting process is greatly
slowed, as it has been with shallow-water operations.
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