Vitter Takes A Shot At A Nominee Hold To Force End To Obamoratorium (UPDATED)

Sen. Mary Landrieu was the first to attempt to force the Obama administration to relax its strangling of Gulf offshore drilling, placing a two-month hold on the nomination of OMB director Jacob Lew in retaliation for the drilling ban the administration instituted following the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

We all know how well that went. For the price of a press release, some high-sounding rhetoric and a couple of fruitless meetings in South Louisiana, the White House convinced Landrieu to go away. She’s now prowling the halls of Capitol Hill muttering about the “moral corruptness” of maintaining the current tax rates rather than the moratorium, and in the meantime the administration is now requiring cost-prohibitive environmental studies in advance of allowing deepwater drilling permits. This has turned the moratorium into a “permitorium,” which is every bit as onerous and destructive to Louisiana’s oil and gas industry and puts just as many jobs on the chopping block.

As a result, Louisiana’s other senator, Republican David Vitter, decided this morning to take a whack at putting a hold of his own on a nomination in an attempt to get Obama’s boot off the industry’s neck.

Vitter’s target – Dr. Scott Doney, who’s up for the job of Chief Scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Vitter sent a letter to Obama this morning outlining his hold:

December 9, 2010

The Honorable Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

This letter is to notify you of my intention to force a U.S. Senate floor “hold” of the nomination of Dr. Scott Doney to be Chief Scientist, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce.  Specifically, I am uncomfortable confirming a high-level science advisor within your administration while there remain significant outstanding concerns over scientific integrity at federal agencies and the White House, including with regard to the recent drilling moratorium and the ongoing bottleneck in permitting, which I would characterize as a continuing de facto moratorium.

I am eager to work with your administration constructively to resolve this.  Specifically, I would request two (2) things.  First, I think it is important and directly related to scientific integrity within your administration to have a full hearing on the Department of Interior IG Report on the Federal Moratorium on Deepwater Drilling, dated November 8, 2010.  It is my intention that a full investigative hearing be held in the Senate Small Business Committee and that your administration provides the following witnesses (as identified in the IG report) to testify under oath:

  1. Carol Browner, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change.
  2. Steve Black, Counselor to Interior Secretary Salazar.

Second, I would like a full and satisfactory written response to my letter dated November 21, 2010, to Secretary Salazar regarding the continuing de facto drilling moratorium.  I have provided a copy of that letter for your reference.

Louisianians are distraught by your administration’s disregard for scientific integrity, the health of the U.S. economy, and domestic energy production.  We are losing jobs, economic activity, revenue to the federal treasury, and energy independence.  We must change this dead-end path.

I look forward to working with your administration constructively on this.


David Vitter
United States Senate

UPDATE: But Vitter wasn’t done today. After shooting that letter off to Obama, he then penned a piece for National Review assailing the current state of Obama’s permitting process and its effect on the state’s economy…

This week brought an unfortunate setback for job creators in offshore energy exploration and related maritime industries: On December 8, the U.S. House of Representatives passed in their continuing resolution (CR) a provision that would allow the Department of the Interior to extend the review period for offshore-exploration plans from 30 to 90 days. President Obama and his administration claim that 30 days isn’t adequate time for a complete review of new permits. Given the administration’s record of job-killing policies when it comes to offshore drilling, that isn’t a surprise. From the moment the moratorium on offshore drilling was put in place following the BP disaster, they’ve continued to ignore the facts, promoted only those policies that mesh with their environmental politics, and further weakened a once-thriving American energy economy.

To date, Interior has failed to approve any new deepwater offshore permits in the 30-day window, resulting in a de facto moratorium on drilling that — as any Louisianan can tell you — has left thousands in the Gulf of Mexico at risk of losing their jobs. Allowing Interior to continue to drag its feet in the permitting process and extend the time frame for reviewing new permits does nothing to bring those jobs back to the Gulf Coast. This significant policy change also opens the door for radical environmental lawsuits to impede or delay the approval of permits, regardless of merit.



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