[UPDATE: During a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing today, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu pressed Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on why he went against the recommendation of the majority of experts who weighed in on ways to address safety in the Gulf as a result of the Deepwater Horizon explosion. Landrieu pleaded with the interior secretary to reduce the six-month moratorium, noting that among the companies planning layoffs because of the deepwater drilling halt is Lafayette-based C&C Technologies. View the exchange here.]
[UPDATE: During a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing today, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu pressed Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on why he went against the recommendation of the majority of experts who weighed in on ways to address safety in the Gulf as a result of the Deepwater Horizon explosion. Landrieu pleaded with the interior secretary to reduce the six-month moratorium, noting that among the companies planning layoffs because of the moratorium is Lafayette-based C&C Technologies. View the exchange here.]
ORIGINAL STORY: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has some explaining to do. The panel of experts the Obama administration turned to for advice on how to address offshore drilling safety in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and ongoing gush of oil into the Gulf of Mexico are speaking out, saying they never agreed to the six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling and that Salazar misrepresented their position. The INDsider has obtained a copy of the letter penned by those experts, along with a fax they sent to Gov. Bobby Jindal and U.S. Sens. Mary Landrieu and David Vitter.
In no uncertain terms, the experts claim Salazar falsely implied that they supported the six-month drilling moratorium. However, in his May 27 report to President Barack Obama, the interior secretary said a panel of seven experts identified by the National Academy of Engineering “peer reviewed” his recommendations, among which is a six-month moratorium on all drilling in water depths of more than 500 feet. That ban went into effect a few days later, shutting down more than 30 rigs.
In their letter, the angry panelists clarify that what they reviewed was an earlier version of the secretary’s report that suggested a six-month moratorium only on new drilling — and only in waters deeper than 1,000 feet.
“We broadly agree with the detailed recommendations in the report and compliment the Department of Interior for its efforts. However, we do not agree with the six month blanket moratorium on floating drilling,” they write. “A moratorium was added after the final review and was never agreed to by the contributors.” The panel members say the blanket moratorium will not measurably reduce risk and will have a lasting impact on the nation’s economy, which may greater than that of the oil spill. They say Salazar’s report highlights the safety record of the industry in drilling more than 50,000 wells on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf, more than 2,000 of which were in water over 1,000 feet and 700 in depths greater than 5,000 feet. Noting that the safety of offshore workers is much better than that of the average worker in the U.S., they write, “We have been using subsea blowout preventers since the mid-1960s. The only other major pollution event from offshore drilling was 41 years ago. This was from a shallow water platform in Santa Barbara Channel drilled with a BOP on the surface of the platform.”
In the cover letter to Jindal, the panelists note that the secretary should be free to recommend whatever he thinks is correct, “but he should not be free to use our names to justify his political decisions.” Read the experts’ letter here.
An Interior Department spokeswoman agreed that the experts had not given their blessing for a moratorium, and said the department did not mean to leave the impression they had, The Times-Picayune reports today.
At least one Louisiana oil services company, Hornbeck Offshore Services of Covington, is mounting a legal challenge to the deepwater ban, claiming the federal government has not shown justification for the shutdown. The company filed suit late Monday in U.S. District Court in New Orleans.
Salazar’s ill-conceived overreaction, many argue, will compound the devastating impact of the environmental disaster, potentially displacing tens of thousands of oilfield-related jobs. If the more than 30 rigs shut down as a result of the moratorium pull up stakes, as some have already indicated they will do, the economy of south Louisiana could be damaged irreparably.
The Lafayette Economic Development Authority is estimating a $2.4 billion economic loss to the Lafayette metro area over the next year, including $466.7 million loss in wages and income and more than 7,700 jobs lost. Of the 7,756 jobs the Lafayette MSA stands to lose, 3,751 are direct jobs lost, according to LEDA. “These numbers reflect job losses across all segments of the economy — direct, indirect and induced — and represent currently existing jobs and jobs that have yet to be created (i.e. manpower for permitted wells that have not begun drilling). As the recovery continues, it is likely that many individuals who lost jobs, specifically in the energy industry, may be able to gain new employment as part of the recovery efforts, in other locales where the rigs will be deployed, and in other sectors of the economy, which will mitigate some of the negative impact on the labor force,” says LEDA CEO Gregg Gothreaux.
Louisiana has joined nine other states in support of Indiana’s appeal of a federal judge’s ruling that the Hoosier State’s ban on sam-sex marriage violates the Constitution.
The Saints are being cautious in an effort to minimize risk of re-injury.
LSU Health Sciences Center says people with a common, hard-to-treat kind of lung cancer can join a new national trial to test drugs faster.
As New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis spoke about the opening of training camp, steep, tree-covered mountains were in full view behind them.
The family of fallen cyclist Lon Lomas is speaking out after the release this week of the man charged with his death.
"The solutions are obvious: undo consolidation, or amend the charter to make this hybrid attempt at a new form of government work better."
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Marijuana source of disputes for HOAs; experts say still safe to fly; Russian-supported attacks on Ukraine and more national and international news for Friday, July 25, 2014.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is considering whether to get involved in a lawsuit against Gov. Bobby Jindal for his attempts to undermine use of the Common Core education standards in Louisiana's public schools.
The latest meeting of a south Louisiana flood board that stirred political turmoil with a lawsuit against the oil and gas industry is taking place amid uncertainty over the future of the lawsuit — and the board's own membership.
The photos taken nearly a mile under the Gulf of Mexico are so clear that small holes are visible in a lifeboat that may have gone down or been scuttled when a passenger ship was sunk by a Nazi submarine in 1942.
Advocate columnist and Jindal shill Quin Hillyer has been against the New Orleans levee board lawsuit from day one, but a recent piece targeting author/activist John Barry prompted the perfect rebuttal from the board’s former vice-president, who takes Hillyer to task on just about every distorted claim he’s made on the issue.
Thousands of people who bought health insurance through the marketplace created by the federal health care overhaul face price hikes next year that could top 10 percent.
Louisiana fell one spot in an annual national ranking of child well-being that looks at poverty, education and health access.
A federal judge has decided he doesn't need to hear more arguments in the case of a gay couple who want a Louisiana marriage license.
Saints again bring playoff aspirations into 2014 campaign.
New details in the case against the man arrested for last week’s bomb threat and bank robbery has surfaced, including a MidSouth Bank surveillance video showing the alleged suspect attempt an early-morning bank robbery.
Parents and teachers who support the Common Core education standards sued Gov. Bobby Jindal Tuesday over his actions against the multi-state standards, accusing him of illegally meddling in education policy.
An arrest was announced this morning in connection with last week’s bomb scare at UL Lafayette.
Attorneys, judges and others interviewed by LaPolitics expect 15 to 20 district judge races this year.
"I feel like I'm under siege," an attorney said recently over drinks at Galatoire's Bistro in Baton Rouge. "We all do. Every time I turn around somebody wants a check. District attorney races. The judges. They're killing us."
As a requirement for running for Congress in the 6th District, former Gov. Edwin Edwards has filed his financial disclosure statement with the U.S. House showing his income in 2013 totaling $242,787.
Unlike those swindled by Bernie Madoff, the victims of Texas businessman Robert Allen Stanford’s Ponzi scheme won’t be getting any relief from the Securities Investor Protection Corp.’s emergency fund after a recent appellate court ruling.
The legal challenge is part of a continuing struggle over Common Core, which has become controversial since the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted the standards in 2010.
The lone Democrat to announce he's running for governor, state Rep. John Bel Edwards, criticized Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal's budgeting tactics as "running the state like a big Ponzi scheme."