Safety Experts: Salazar lied about what we said. – Update: legal challenge
posted at 11:05 pm on June 8, 2010 by Laura Curtis
The deepwater drilling moratorium is estimated to cost 40,000 jobs and cause 200,000 barrels a day in lost capacity. But why again are we destroying the Gulf coast economy? Obama’s panel of safety experts say that they never supported Obama’s six-month drilling moratorium. In fact, they didn’t even know about it until it was implemented.
Members of a panel of experts brought in to advise the Obama administration on how to address offshore drilling safety after the Deepwater Horizon disaster now say Interior Secretary Ken Salazar falsely implied they supported a six-month drilling moratorium they actually oppose.
Salazar’s May 27 report to President Barack Obama said a panel of seven experts “peer reviewed” his recommendations, which included a six-month moratorium on all ongoing drilling in waters deeper than 500 feet. That prohibition took effect a few days later, but the angry panel members and some others who contributed to the Salazar report said they had only reviewed an earlier version of the Interior secretary’s report that suggested a six-month moratorium only on new drilling, and then only in waters deeper than 1,000 feet.
It’s admirable that the Obama administration brought in a panel of recognized experts to consult on drilling safety. It would have been nice if the Mineral Management Service had taken a break from surfing porn and done something like that before eleven people lost their lives. But instead of taking their advice and implementing reasonable safety precautions, they’ve misrepresented the views of the panelists and provoked furious responses, including, “The Secretary should be free to recommend whatever he thinks is correct, but he should not be free to use our names to justify his political decisions.”
Contra Salazar’s original disingenuous report, these experts emphatically oppose the moratorium:
“A blanket moratorium is not the answer. It will not measurably reduce risk further and it will have a lasting impact on the nation’s economy which may be greater than that of the oil spill,” the letter says. “We do not believe punishing the innocent is the right thing to do.”
Obama is the king of straw men and false choices. But the choices here are not limited to either unsafe drilling or long term destruction of the Gulf coast economy. The moratorium was a political decision, and a bad one. It should be reversed immediately.
Update: Is the moratorium legal? Hornbeck, one of the suppliers, says no.
The company filed suit late Monday in U.S. District Court in New Orleans to bar the Interior Department from enforcing the six-month moratorium ordered by President Barack Obama in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster and the huge oil leak in the Gulf.
… At the center of the suit is Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar’s May 27 report on safety measures in the Gulf, which led to the moratorium. Hornbeck said the government’s own inspections of 29 of the 33 drilling rigs turned up nothing more than minor violations.
“The report contains no finding or evidence of a systemic failure by rig operators, drillers or other participants in offshore drilling operations to comply with current regulations or existing permits,” the suit said.
Ed Morrissey’s take on this –
Instead of just relying on its own intellectual candlepower for the decision, Barack Obama and Ken Salazar apparently wanted some cover for their decision, and tried pulling a bait-and-switch on their own expert panel. That certainly isn’t going to instill confidence in the leadership of this administration or its competence, both in the crisis at hand and in general. Shooting themselves in the foot in their public-relations efforts and antagonizing the people they need to solve the catastrophe is the last thing they or any of us need at the moment.