La. lawmakers unite against moratorium

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers from both parties from the Gulf Coast are working together to lobby the administration to speed up permits for offshore drilling in shallow water and to lift the moratorium on drilling in deep water in the Gulf of Mexico.

“This ban hurts everybody,” Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., said on the House floor Thursday. “We stand united on the Gulf Coast to support good-paying jobs.”

Boustany and other Gulf Coast lawmakers say the administration’s policies could cost the region’s already fragile economy thousands of jobs.

“The moratorium could probably be worse than oil spill damages,” Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-La., said. “They know this moratorium is not going to be the best for the region. Safety is their concern.”

Environmentalists applaud the drilling ban in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

“We support putting those regulations in place before risking another oil spill,” said Marilyn Heiman, director of the offshore energy reform project at the Pew Environment Group.

President Barack Obama imposed a six-month ban on deep-water drilling in the Gulf after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and sank off Louisiana’s coast on April 20, leaving its damaged underwater well gushing oil. Federal officials suspended new permits and continued to ban 33 deep-water Gulf wells from operating while the explosion is investigated and a commission reviews safety standards.

Last month, a federal court struck down the ban, calling it “arbitrary and capricious.” The administration recently revised the moratorium, keeping it in place until Nov. 30.

The moratorium targets drilling in deep water, but Gulf Coast lawmakers say it created a “de facto moratorium” on drilling in shallow water. Federal records show only four permits have been granted since the Department of Interior issued the first moratorium in May. In the 11 months before the moratorium, an average of 14 shallow-water permits a month were granted, the records show.

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