Republicans Pleased, Enviros Appalled, At Ending Of Drilling Moratorium

The White House has already announced it plans to appeal today's ruling by federal judge Martin Feldman that struck down the Obama administration's six-month ban on drilling in the Gulf.

Feldman disputed the administration's logic in suggesting that because one oil rig failed, the others were at risk of failure as well.  The White House says that with oil continuing to spill in the Gulf, two months after the initial accident, this is not the right time to be doing additional drilling.

Republicans, such as Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, were pleased.  Barbour is quoted in an Associated Press account as saying "he hopes the judge's ruling will take effect quickly and be upheld on appeal."  The governor had been one of the leading opponents of the moratorium, and said in fact that he thought that it was worse than the BP spill itself.  Here is the Q and A between Barbour and NBC's David Gregory last Sunday on Meet the Press:

Q:  Governor, what's worse, the moratorium or the effects of this spill on the region?

A:  Well, the moratorium.  The spill's a terrible thing, but the moratorium is a terrible thing that's not only bad for the region, it's bad for America.

Only yesterday, the office of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal filed an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit that would halt Obama's moratorium.  On Capitol Hill, Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) and Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) have been among those introducing proposals to lift the ban on drilling.

A Scripps Howard News Service editorial said that "hyperbole aside, Barbour has a point":

The moratorium is hurting the Gulf economy and in a way that could extend the damage well beyond the point where drilling resumes.

The ban halted work on 33 deep-water rigs, costing the companies the $250,000 to $500,000 a day the rigs typically lease for. Rather than let equipment sit idle, owners are likely to look for drilling jobs in other parts of the world, and it might be years before they return to the Gulf.

Each rig generates 800 to 1,400 jobs. In Louisiana alone, the monthly payroll from oilrigs is $165 million. If the rigs leave for other jobs, only a relative handful of the crew will go with them. The work force will be filled by local hires from wherever the rig winds up.

But environmental groups were appalled, saying the ruling "jeopardizes safety and the environment and risks a repeat of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and more oil spills":

"The tragic explosion, the unstopped gushing of oil, and resulting damage to fishing and tourism industries, cultures, wildlife and the whole Gulf Coast should be more than enough cause for pausing risky deepwater activities until safety and environmental protection is assured," said Catherine Wannamaker, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center, who argued before the court on behalf of the environmental groups.

"Unfortunately, today's court decision allows short-term profit for some to trump safety, lives, and the environmental health of the Gulf Coast upon which so many depend," said Wannamaker. "Continuing the same business as usual approach to risky deepwater drilling that led to the loss of life and environmental disaster in the Gulf as if nothing had happened is outrageous."

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