Exactly one month ago, the Obama Administration lifted the moratorium on offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Unfortunately, this announcement did nothing to address the uncertainty that already caused more than 12,000 people to lose their jobs in the energy industry over the last six months. Not only is the Administration’s “action” on the moratorium too little too late, a “permitorium” (a moratorium on drilling permits) still exists with no end in sight.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar emphatically declared an end to the moratorium on October 12. “We are open for business,” Salazar said at the time. “We will be taking applications for drilling in the deep water.” Were that truly the case, pending drilling permits should have been considered and approved or rejected by now. Instead, the pending permits remain in limbo, leaving our domestic energy industry, along with thousands of families throughout the Gulf, hanging in the balance.
Somewhere along the line, Washington bureaucrats lost sight of the impact that Gulf of Mexico energy exploration and production has on our energy independence, our energy security, and our economy. More than 30 deepwater rigs were drilling safely in the Gulf of Mexico at the time the moratorium was imposed. Those rigs remain idled, along with their massive workforce and support infrastructure.
Without an end to the permitorium coupled with clarity from the Administration to jumpstart the permitting process, energy exploration and production in the Gulf of Mexico will come to a halt for good, resulting in disaster for Gulf economies and forcing the U.S. to rely on foreign countries to meet our country’s ever growing demand for energy.
Enough is enough. People in Louisiana and throughout the Gulf are suffering, and the future of our country’s energy independence and security is being jeopardized. We must end this permitorium and the Administration must do its part by laying out a clear path that allows permits to be issued using safer standards that quickly get people back to work.
The Administration needs to stop playing games with the people who work in America’s energy industry. While the moratorium was lifted one month ago, the Department of Interior is not moving forward on exploration plans and drilling applications, and, despite the Administration’s claims, this permitorium still wreaks havoc throughout the Gulf.
Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., is a member of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment.