Obama Ignores Own Panel In Imposing Drilling Ban

An article posted tonight at the Times-Picayune’s website contains a potential bombshell revelation regarding President Obama’s imposition of a deepwater offshore drilling ban, a move which has the potential to put as many as 100,000 Louisiana jobs at risk.

It seems that the ban is coming in contradiction to recommendations made by Obama’s own panel of experts. The panel endorsed a six-month moratorium on new drilling permits for wells in more than 1,000 feet of water, and nothing more.

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 reviewed only an earlier version of the secretary’s report that suggested a six-month moratorium only on new drilling, and then 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,” a joint letter from the panelists to various politicians says. “However, we do not agree with the six month blanket moratorium on floating drilling. A moratorium was added after the final review and was never agreed to by the contributors.”


An Interior Department spokeswoman agreed that the experts had not given their blessing for a moratorium, and said the department did not mean to leave the impression they had. In fact, she said, the experts were merely asked to review 22 safety recommendations in the report.

“We didn’t mean to imply that they also agreed with the moratorium on deepwater drilling,” the spokeswoman, Kendra Barkoff, said. “We acknowledge that they were not asked to review or comment on the proposed moratorium and that they peer-reviewed the report on a technical basis. The moratorium on deepwater drilling is based on the need for a comprehensive review of safety in deepwater operations in light of the BP oil spill.”

The experts’ criticism of the moratorium and effort to distance themselves from it come as oil production companies prepare to move mobile deepwater rigs out of the Gulf of Mexico, threatening thousands of jobs in Louisiana that support those drilling operations with supply boats and shoreside services.

“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.”

One of the panelists who signed the letter, University of California at Berkeley engineering professor Bob Bea, said in an e-mail message that a moratorium should be reserved for “unconventional, very hazardous operations” and shouldn’t apply to the “majority of conventional offshore operations, (which) meet fundamental requirements for acceptable risks.”

“Moratorium was not a part of the … report we consulted-advised-reviewed,” Bea wrote. “Word from DOI (Interior Department) was it was a W(hite) H(ouse) request.”

Ken Arnold, a member of the National Academy of Engineering and an oil and gas industry consultant who was affiliated with the panel, put out a rather nasty statement: “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.”

Five of the seven reviewers signed the complaint letter: Bea; Benton Baugh, president of Radoil Inc.; Ford Brett, managing director of Petroskills; Martin Chenevert, director of drilling research for the department of petroleum and geophysical engineering at the University of Texas; and Hans Juvkam-Wold, petroleum engineering professor emeritus at Texas A&M University.

Eight other industry experts were interviewed for the creation of Salazar’s report. Two of them also signed the letter: E.G. “Skip” Ward, associate director of the Offshore Technology Research Center at Texas A&M University, and Tom Williams, a former undersecretary of the interior.

“We were very upset,” Ward said. “We would have understood if (Salazar’s report) said, ‘These are good recommendations from the panel, but we have decided to declare a six-month moratorium instead.’ But instead, they’re kind of using our input for cover to do something that didn’t have much to do with our recommendations.”

Perverting the best advice of the nation’s top engineers to justify an ideological and political play appears to be only part of the circus the Obama administration is conducting. Wednesday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told a Senate hearing that the administration would attempt to stick BP with the bill for lost wages for oilfield employees put out of work by the drilling ban – a tab estimated by the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil & Gas Association to come to some $330 million per month in Louisiana alone. Unsurprisingly, the company is balking at such an idea

Oil major BP believes it may be heading for a showdown with the White House over ever- increasing demands that it cover costs related to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a BP source said on Wednesday.

“At some point a line has to be drawn,” the source said.

Earlier on Wednesday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told a Senate hearing he would ask BP to repay the salaries of any workers laid off because of the six-month moratorium on deepwater exploratory drilling imposed by the U.S. government after the spill.

BP has said it will pay for the clean-up and direct damages to those affected by the spill, such as fisherman. But the source said the moratorium was a government decision, and so the costs related to it were a different matter.

The company declined comment.

Salazar’s comments helped push BP’s New York-listed American Depositary Receipts down 15 percent on Wednesday.

The idea that the federal government expected to impose a six-month (most observers expect that the moratorium will last at least twice as long) ban on deepwater offshore drilling by regulatory fiat and simply saddle BP with all costs associated with such a drastic action is breathtaking in its departure from reality. BP has repeatedly said it would pay “all legitimate claims,” but virtually no company in its position would voluntary open itself to this level of exposure.

The Obama administration is teetering on the brink of collapse. Never in American history has the federal government so drastically violated a state’s economy. It comes out that the administration has done so against the advice of its own experts. The administration apparently has strategized that it would smooth over the consequences of its decision by imposing the costs for it on BP, at a time when Obama’s Justice Department is pursuing criminal charges against the company and engaging in a full-on rhetorical assault complete with references to a “boot on the neck” and an “ass to kick” and bragging about the refusal to engage in dialogue with BP’s CEO because of an assumption Tony Hayward would merely shine the president on – all the while expecting BP to both stop the spill and head efforts to mitigate it on land. At some point, it was inevitable that BP – in the face of collapsing stock prices and what could plausibly become an existential crisis which threatens its ability to pay the legitimate claims of fishermen and others affected in the Gulf states harmed by the spill – would begin to push back.

With such a picture emerging, the only conclusion to be made is that this is a staggeringly incompetent administration, lacking in moral character and refusing to engage in honest assessment of reality for fear of antagonizing the ungovernable Left. And while Obama and his minions scheme to advance partisan political agendas in the face of the spill, real human beings are seeing their lives destroyed – not by BP’s considerable negligence, but by idiotic government policies warned against by the president’s own experts.

Has America ever been saddled with such leadership? And what consequences may emerge from such a scenario?



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