Obama Ban Kneecaps Gulf Coast Economy

The crisis in the Gulf of Mexico intensified Friday as one of the largest drilling companies in the world announced movement of its deepwater drilling rig Ocean Endeavor from the Gulf of Mexico to Egypt.
“With new contracting severely restricted in the Gulf of Mexico as a result of the uncertainties surrounding the offshore drilling moratorium, we are actively seeking international opportunities to keep our rigs fully employed,” said Diamond Offshore President and CEO, Larry Dickerson. “We greatly regret the loss of U.S. jobs that will result from this rig relocation.”

The announcement came as a group of Congressmen toured Grand Isle, La., to get a first-hand look at the local impact of the spill.

“The greatest damage that’s going to happen in Louisiana — that’s already happening — is to jobs and the economy,” Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) told HUMAN EVENTS after the site visit.  “The moratorium on deepwater drilling which actually has now failed in court twice but nonetheless just the delay — the uncertainty of all this — we’re already seeing crews stack their rigs and move on.”

Despite the 5th Circuit Court’s refusal to reinstate the deepwater drilling ban last week, Obama’s vow to pursue the ban through appeals or reinstate the ban in defiance of the court keeps companies and workers sitting idle.

“The people of Louisiana are winning the battle in court against the federal government, but we’re still losing the war because of the uncertainty,” Fleming said.  “There’s an uncertainty that the federal government won’t back off and allow drilling to go forward as it should and it’s killing thousands of jobs and is having a devastating impact on the state of Louisiana.”

Each deepwater rig employs around 400 people on the rig and through direct, ancillary support. Thousands more jobs are impacted in local restaurants, hotels, cell phone companies, fast food chains, car dealerships, grocery stores, gas stations — the ripple effect of the Obama drilling moratorium is crippling the Gulf Coast economy already suffering from a steep drop in tourism and spill damage to the seafood industry.

Fleming also notes that despite the president’s announcement on May 28 that shallow water drilling would go forward (report on HUMAN EVENTS with timeline at the link) the administration continues to delay approval of the permitting.

“While there is no official moratorium on shallow water drilling, there are no permits being given for the shallow water drilling so we have to call that a de-facto moratorium,” Fleming said.  “When you ask the officials, and I have, and you ask them is there a moratorium on shallow water drilling — and they define that as 500 feet or less — they say, ‘No, everything’s going fine.’  But when you talk to the drillers they say, ‘Well, we fill out all the forms and we submit all the forms but we get no permits.’”

Friday’s congressional delegation tour included a boat and beach review of the island area to assess effects to wildlife, a flyover of affected areas by helicopter and a meeting with local officials.  

“I got a little bit of a surprise from what I expected to see when I got there,” Fleming said.  “A week ago there was a lot of oil on the doorstep of Grand Isle and those barrier islands out there and almost overnight, as [local officials] put it, it sort of dissipated possibly because of the effects of the tropical storm that came across the Gulf.  We may have dodged that bullet.”

For weeks local Louisiana officials have proposed ways to block more oil from entering into the fragile marshlands only to be rebuffed by the Obama administration.

Rep. Mike Burgess (R-Texas), top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce oversight subcommittee told HUMAN EVENTS the administration is still blocking local plans for rock berms to protect the marshes.

“Right now, of course, the obstruction is the administration,” Burgess said after the tour’s conclusion.  “In fact, BP, in this instance, has agreed to pay for the rocks and has the rocks sitting in barges on the Mississippi River apparently waiting on the okay from the Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency to build the rock berms.”

And the rocks — bought and paid for by BP — continue to sit on the barges.

“It’s sad that they’re fighting this oil spill but they’re also fighting the inertia of the administration federal bureaucracies which compounds the tragedy,” Burgess said.

Burgess says the administration still has not used its emergency powers to react to the crisis.

“The most frustrating thing is we have the administration with the power under the Oil Pollution Act to enact emergency powers.  We hear people say things like, ‘All hands on deck’ but you come down here and it’s anything but all hands on deck,” Burgess said.  “The real tragedy is the local leaders, the mayors and the parish council folks have plans in mind to protect their area the best they know how — they are the folks most familiar with the area — and they’re prevented.”

“You can’t just say, ‘No, sorry, that won’t work, we’re not going to give you permission to do that’ and then get back to them a couple of weeks later.  This is what’s driving those people crazy right now,” Burgess added.

Burgess also warned in our interview Friday that the “A Whale” super skimmer ship — that skims 300,000 to 400,000 barrels a day — was still being blocked from work by the Obama administration.

“The Whale skimmer boat is not being allowed to work because the EPA wants to make sure that the quality of water that’s coming out of the other end meets their specifications.  Well, wait a minute, it’s taking in oil out of the water and putting water back out the other end.  If the EPA wants to monitor while it’s working where it could be improved and where techniques could be modified to get a better result that would be great, but to just hold it up and say they’re doing testing to make sure the water that’s coming out on the clean end does indeed meet our specifications when it’s 99% better than the water that went in on the front end — that’s just nuts,” Burgess said.

Somehow it makes sense to the Obama administration.

Fleming warned that at the end of the day the most enduring damage to the region in the wake of the spill could be inflicted by the federal government.

“When history is written on this episode, what I suspect… it will be all of the economic damage that’s been created mostly by the federal government itself in terms of the moratoria and potentially very onerous regulations — that the real damage will actually occur as a result of the administration and Washington itself,” Fleming said.

The congressional group hosted by Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) also included Reps. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.), Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) and Bob Latta (R-Ohio).