Late last week, another federal judge compelled Secretary Salazar to stop dragging his feet on a decision that would permit Shell Oil to move forward with an offshore drilling program. This is the fourth such ruling from the bench in less than a year, when the administration imposed a “capricious and arbitrary” drilling moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico.
We’re nearing the moratorium’s one-year anniversary and in all this time only 13 previously approved and permitted deepwater drilling operations have been reauthorized to resume oil exploration. And only one — one — permit has been approved to drill a new deepwater well. One word describes one permit: pathetic.
I’m not convinced that Secretary Salazar would have issued the first reauthorized permit had Congress not intervened. On February 23, Chairman Hastings announced that the House Natural Resources Committee would hold three public hearings on the administration’s de facto moratorium. Low and behold, less than a week later — and two days before the Secretary was scheduled to testify — the first permit was issued. And two weeks before the offshore drilling regulator Michael Bromwich was scheduled to testify before the Committee, the second and third reauthorized permits were granted.
When hundreds of thousands of Americans are losing their jobs because of the de facto moratorium, how is it that Messrs. Salazar and Bromwich get to keep theirs? When this country has reached its debt ceiling, how is it that the administration willfully ignores one of the largest nontax sources of revenue — $9+ billion from oil and gas leases? When oil exporters in the Middle East and North Africa are celebrating their “Arab Spring,” how can this President do nothing while Gulf oil production declines by 190,000 barrels a day?
Two days ago, appearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Michael Bromwich arrogantly told Senator Landrieu to “do the math.” If Mr. Bromwich needs another set of fingers and toes, I for one would be happy to volunteer.
Jim Adams is the president and CEO, Offshore Marine Service Association