Gulf Restoration Network Doesn’t Care About People In South Louisiana

Last week, Sen. David Vitter put a hold on Dr. Scott Doney’s nomination to be the head scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Vitter’s hold was in retaliation for the bait-and-switch maneuver the Obama administration pulled on Louisiana’s other senator Mary Landrieu, who had placed a hold on OMB director Jacob Lew’s nomination as a response to the White House’s offshore drilling moratorium.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management head Michael Bromwich promised Landrieu, in return for her lifting her hold on Lew, that permits for offshore drilling would begin to accelerate, and meetings in Louisiana between Bromwich and oil and gas industry representatives would be forthcoming to hammer out a way to resurrect that industry after six months of government-imposed inactivity following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Landrieu lifted her hold, and the meetings were held, all right. And shortly following those, Interior imposed a requirement that an environmental study be done prior to each deepwater offshore drilling permit being approved – a requirement making it almost impossible to complete the permitting process in a cost-effective way.

Based on those circumstances, and a report by the Inspector General of the Department of Interior which concluded that the moratorium itself was essentially fraudulently presented as the product of review and approval by a panel of the nation’s top engineers when those engineers specifically disapproved a drilling moratorium as a response to the spill, Vitter announced his hold.

And Vitter also required that, in order to get his hold on Doney lifted, two figures the IG report names as players in generating the report announcing the moratorium – White House energy/climate czar Carol Browner and Department of Interior counsel Steve Black – be hauled in front of a Senate Small Business subcommittee hearing to testify about the creation of that moratorium report.

With us so far? To sum up, thousands of Louisiana jobs are on the line as a drilling moratorium disapproved by the nation’s top engineers, beaten in federal court and supposedly lifted by the White House, continues. Louisiana’s Democrat senator fought the moratorium with a hold on the OMB director’s nomination, and she was essentially tricked into lifting it. And now the state’s Republican senator has entered the fight with another hold and upped the stakes by seeking to hold the feet of Browner, who it appears ordered up the moratorium, to the fire in a Senate committee.

What we’re seeing is Louisiana’s senators attempting to fight Washington’s attempts to kill Louisiana livelihoods through political means.

You would think all Louisianans would be rooting for Vitter, like him or not, since our neighbors’ livelihoods and our economy (and ailing state budget, too) are at stake.

You’d think wrong.

There is such a thing as the Gulf Restoration Network. As you might imagine, it’s an environmentalist outfit, and as you might also imagine it’s in the midst of an end-of-year fundraising drive.

And the Gulf Restoration Network has a “campaign director” by the name of Aaron Viles, who is described on the organization’s website thusly:

Aaron leads several of our campaigns, including our effort to ensure sustainable fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico, our work on global warming issues in the Gulf, and our campaign to protect important habitats, such as cypress forests throughout the Gulf. He has B.S. in Biology with an emphasis in Conservation, Ecology and Evolution from the University of Washington and worked for many years as a Campaign Director/Organizer for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

Why should you care about a crunchy non-profit functionary transplanted from the Pacific Northwest? Because he’s in the news today spewing bile about Vitter’s hold on Doney.

“Senator Vitter flagging the administration’s use of science is about as credible as Congressman Bill Jefferson weighing in on ethics rules,” Viles said.

“From doubting the science of human-influenced global warming, to seeking earmarks for anti-evolution propaganda in classrooms, Senator Vitter has a long history of sacrificing science for naked political posturing. Add this effort to that list.”

Sounds a bit partisan, doesn’t it? After all, it’s not like Vitter has defeated Doney’s nomination. He’s just holding it up a little in an effort to get the administration to do what it pledged to do and to get some answers about Browner’s funny business in instituting the moratorium in the first place. That shouldn’t earn Vitter this kind of stinging rebuke.

But then when an organization’s website contains verbiage like “oil and oceans don’t mix,” it becomes patently obvious that the Gulf Restoration Network isn’t just some group looking to promote science and feed hungry turtles – they’re promoting junk science and seeking to keep Louisiana families hungry by grinding the oil and gas industry to a halt.

Nobody supports oil spills, and nobody suggests that BP’s business practices in advance of the Deepwater Horizon spill were proper. But the rest of the operators in the offshore oil business didn’t kill 11 employees and discharge millions of barrels of product into the Gulf. In fact, the overall record of safety among Gulf operators is pretty good – BP notwithstanding.

But while we can all agree that promoting safety and environmentally sound practices in the oil patch are important, shutting down oil drilling in the Gulf hurts real people and real families. By its attacks on Vitter for the sin of fighting the administration’s moratorium-turned-permitorium, Viles and his operation have shown themselves insensitive to the plight of hard-working folks throughout South Louisiana who are having a bleak holiday season already.



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