Offshore Drilling Moratorium Reimposed

The Department of the Interior has, unwisely and unnecessarily, reimposed the ban on deep water offshore drilling.

After being rebuffed in Court, the Department of the Interior has issued a new order barring most deep sea offshore oil drilling:

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar reissued a moratorium on deepwater offshore drilling Monday, after the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the White House’s appeal of a lower court decision to halt the drilling ban.

The reinstated ban will “ protect communities, coasts, and wildlife as oil and gas companies implement adequate safety measures to reduce the risks associated with deepwater drilling operations and to ensure they are prepared for blowouts and oil spills,” wrote the Interior Department in a statement.

The ban won’t apply to shallow water drilling activities, which, the department said, “ do not present the same type or level of risks as deepwater drilling operations can continue to move forward if operators are in compliance with all safety and environmental requirements, including the safety and environmental requirements implemented through recent Notices to Lessees.”

The new ban will be in effect until November 30 or until such time as Salazar deems that drilling can move forward safely, the department said.

It is supported, said a departent statement by an “extensive record” indicating that the operations “would pose a threat of serious, irreparable, or immediate harm or damage to the marine, coastal, and human environment.”

The delay, it said, “would allow time for the implementation of new safety reforms aimed at preventing further drilling accidents.”

Quite obviously, this will be headed back to Court. However, since the main reason that the original moratorium was struck down was because the Judge found that it was not supported by sufficient expert opinion to be considered a proper agency order under the Administrative Procedure Act, that previous dismissal technically doesn’t bar the Administration from taking a second bite at the apple.

Assuming that this order includes a legally sufficient independent support, which I would have to imagine that it does since the Judge was fairly clear about what the deficiencies were, it’s likely to fare better in Court than the previous Order did.

That doesn’t mean it’s a good idea, though. This strikes me as a rather heavy-handed use of agency power with very little evidence that it’s actually necessary. Additionally, it’s likely to continue to have a devastating economic impact on Louisiana and the rest of the Gulf Coast that depends on the drilling industry as a significant source of income. Already one drilling rig has left of Gulf of Mexico, headed to the waters off Egypr where there is no moratorium. One can assume that it’s sister rigs won’t be far behind. Even after the oil spill is stopped and the cleanup underway, this is going to continue harming the people of Louisiana unnecessarily.

FILED UNDER: Barack Obama, Economics and Business, Environment, Oil Spill, Politicians, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Raoul says:

    Yeah like the oil slick is not economically harmful. My two cents worth- until we develop a method to stop a spill 5,000′ below the water surface in a reasonable amount of time (and 3 months is not reasonable) then we need to stop drilling.

  2. Chuck Tyler says:

    Ok, let me get this straight–when the White House does nothing, it’s wrong.

    When the White House does something, it’s wrong.

    WTF? How many other rigs are going to blatantly circumvent safety regs in order to bring their product to market as quickly as possible? Because we don’t know the answer to that, I feel that the Interior Department made the best choice available.

    Let’s see some cooperation from the oil companies, instead of the whining about the projected loss of revenue, ok?

  3. Whether the moratorium is good policy or not, this action by the Administration borders on contempt of court. The Administration got a ruling it didn’t like from a court and simply turned around and did what it wanted to do anyway, almost as if the court had never ruled against it at all. Leaves a VERY bad taste in my mouth.

  4. Raoul says:

    Transplanted Lawyer-spare me the sanctimony- this IS how the legal system works- u are an attorney, right?

  5. PD Shaw says:

    My read of the judge’s order was that the government had failed to offer a rational explanation of the scope, nature and necessity of the moratorium. I fully expected that the government would get it’s act together on appeal, but apparently not.

    It sounds like the moratorium has been narrowed on the issue of what operations are covered, so I’m not sure that the government is in contempt. What I haven’t heard is an explanation on the duration of the moratorium. I think the judge had wanted some sort of time table of events that explained the duration, such as it will take sixteen weeks to get new legislation in place. ‘Until November unless we decide otherwise’ sounds entirely arbitrary.

  6. Raoul, however cynical you may be about the legal system, I hope you do not believe that it works by way of parties to litigation defying orders of the judge. And please don’t confuse “skepticism” for “sanctimony.”

  7. Steve Plunk says:

    Apparently until we make sure accidents will never happen some people believe we shouldn’t drill. I suppose next we should ground all airliners, recall all automobiles, and cease industrial production. This is a rarity that should be treated as such. While my argument is reductio ad absurdum so is the White House’s. It’s absurd to impose a blanket moratorium.

    The White House is also showing contempt of the legal system. By simply throwing out more orders that can be taken into court a de facto moratorium exists. The uncertainty will force rigs into foreign waters. Hey, mission accomplished. It’s obvious they are anti business and certainly anti fossil fuel.

    BTW, it’s true, whether they are doing something or not doing something it’s usually wrong.

  8. sam says:

    This strikes me as a rather heavy-handed use of agency power with very little evidence that it’s actually necessary. Additionally, it’s likely to continue to have a devastating economic impact on Louisiana and the rest of the Gulf Coast that depends on the drilling industry as a significant source of income.

    My understanding is that the moratorium affects only 33 rigs. There are hundreds of shallow-water operations that are not affected. We have to keep in mind that, according to BP, what happened could never have happened. Anybody know what assurances the operators of the other rigs have offered? Anybody know what the state of the blowout preventers is on the 33 rigs? I think that, at a minimum, the preventer question needs to be addressed before a rig can begin to operate again. That just seems simple prudence.

  9. sam says:

    I suppose next we should ground all airliners, recall all automobiles, and cease industrial production

    I just like to point out that if an airliner suffered massive structural failure, of a type said to be unthinkable, unlikely verging on impossible, by management, and which failure lead to a loss of life and widespread damage to property, the fleet would be grounded faster than you can say Boo.

  10. sam says:

    when we getting our html functions back???

  11. Raoul says:

    TL: What you call defiance I call compliance. If you are representing a client who is told by the judge that get an an action you need to do XYZ I am sure you would unless you wanted to be charged with malpractice-

  12. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    So, Sam. If there are structual problems with an air craft it usually effect more than one air plane of that type. How long have they been drill at this depth and in this area? How many leaks have they had prior to the Obama administration issuing permits and exceptions ot BP for this venture at deep horizon. How many days before the leak began did MMS know there was a problem and why did they not order BP to halt the drilling? Sam, did you read Al Franken(stein) may have been elected counting illegal votes? Further, it seems Hillary may have actually won the democratic nomination but had it stolen by Obama thugs. Well, no matter. Come January when the new Republican congress is seated they can begin impeachment proceedings against your fearless fake.

  13. tom p says:

    Wow… Idiocy reigns:

    TL: You are not a lawyer (worth his law degree) because no lawyer worth his law degree would ever say, “And please don’t confuse “skepticism” for “sanctimony.” Jeez oh pete… you could tie up several courts with motions pertaining to THAT statement… none of which would ever get your client any closer to a settlement (remeber? it IS all about your client?)

  14. tom p says:

    More IR:

    ****Apparently until we make sure accidents will never happen some people believe we shouldn’t drill****

    Steve P: How about the ability to deal with any MORE accidents???

    And before you tell me this was a one in a million accident, let me tell you that the “one in 500 year floods” seem to be coming about once every 10-15 years here of late (in MO).

    In otner words, every now and again, the odds catch up with you.

  15. tom p says:

    More IR:

    ***How long have they been drill at this depth and in this area?***

    ZR: refer to the previous post to the answer to your questions.

    Need I remind all, that ZERO drilling would be going on with out federal gov’t approval? Need I remind all that if they have the power to give, they have the power to take away?

    What world do you live in? (what world does this judge live in???)The one where corporations hold ultimate power?

    No thanks. I am the slave to no one. I just wanna go fishing.

    (and yes, I know I am delusional, but at least I know who the true masters are)

  16. JKB says:

    Relax, all this means is that some other country will receive royalty payments for oil extracted and some other country’s citizens will receive good pay checks to feed their families with. America on the other hand will not receive royalty payments, American citizens will not earn a salary from a good job, American states will not receive benefit of the tax dollars from expenditures to support the rigs. It is as Obama wanted. Or maybe he and his minions are just too stupid to understand knock on effects from their wild eyed decisions.

    Of course, Americans will send what money we have left to some foreign country to pay of the oil that the rigs will make available to their oil companies.

    Go Democrats, Yea Obama!

  17. anjin-san says:

    Apparently until we make sure accidents will never happen

    Utter crap Steve. We want to make sure that the oil companies, who are making profits that defy imagination, are taking reasonable and prudent safety measures and adhering to best practices. Its pretty clear that BP was not.

  18. anjin-san says:

    American citizens will not earn a salary from a good job,

    Funny how you don’t seem to give a crap about all the American citizens put out of work by the oil spill…

  19. smurfy says:

    Relax, all this means is that some other country will receive royalty payments for oil extracted and some other country’s citizens will receive good pay checks to feed their families with.

    Meanwhile, American families right now already lost their livelihoods and pay checks, and are forced to clean up the mess left by some other country (a British corporation).

    And since all of our (apparently insufficient) cleanup capability is now 100% occupied indefinitely, if there were another spill we’d be totally hosed and not able to respond at all. We have no emergency capability. We have no backup plan.

    So we should just keep on going, like we were, like nothing happened? Seriously? A moratorium seems like a reasonable response to me, to review the causes and be better prepared. A wild-eyed decision would be to allow drilling as if the largest environmental disaster in history hadn’t just occured due to very predictable failure.

    What’s your alternative, exactly? What’s your prudent response that isn’t so wild-eyed?

  20. Juneau: says:

    As Obama stomps petulantly on the ground and whines… “You WILL respect my wishes – you WILL. I AM the law…

  21. Juneau: says:

    I just like to point out that if an airliner suffered massive structural failure, of a type said to be unthinkable, unlikely verging on impossible, by management, and which failure lead to a loss of life and widespread damage to property, the fleet would be grounded faster than you can say Boo.

    And immediately released again to fly at-will, once the issue ad been identified and procedures put in place to inspect and repair the problem…

  22. Juneau: says:

    Funny how you don’t seem to give a crap about all the American citizens put out of work by the oil spill…

    Liberals freeze in the face of uncertainty and convene a committee to study what to do. Conservatives pick a common sense approach and then act. And what better place to hold a committee meeting than on a golf course, hmm?

  23. sam says:

    And immediately released again to fly at-will, once the issue ad been identified and procedures put in place to inspect and repair the problem…

    I thought that’s what I said: “I think that, at a minimum, the preventer question needs to be addressed before a rig can begin to operate again. That just seems simple prudence.”

  24. James Joyner says:

    when we getting our html functions back???

    Very soon, I hope! I use them, too, so I share your pain.

    My developer couldn’t make them work, for some reason. I pinged my regular tech guy again yesterday.

  25. wr says:

    Juneau sez: Liberals freeze in the face of uncertainty and convene a committee to study what to do. Conservatives pick a common sense approach and then act. And what better place to hold a committee meeting than on a golf course, hmm?

    Yup. Here’s how this works. Let’s say, for instance, that there is suspicion of WMD in Iraq. Those weak libs might say something like “Let’s let the inspections go on and find out the truth.” Bold, brave conservatives say: “Enough of this study! We know there are WMD! Let’s invade right now! We’ll be out in two weeks and no one will get hurt! And we’ll find those WMDs ourselves! And if we’re proved wrong, we’ll just claim they were moved to Syria! No time for thought — we need mindless action right now!”

  26. Steve Plunk says:

    anjin,

    So instead of a blanket moratorium the government should inspect the wells and formulate policies. This isn’t a new technology that has no track record. A moratorium is a political stunt meant to appease some and make the Administration look decisive. That’s the crap. Six months? Why not a year? Why not a month? There’s no method to the madness just flailing about like the amateurs they are.

  27. Juneau: says:

    Those weak libs might say something like “Let’s let the inspections go on and find out the truth.”

    Uhmm… you DO remember that Saddam was refusing to let the inspectors go about their business, right? So what flavor of jello are you trying to prop your argument up on? Not to mention the French, British, et. al. intelligence services collectively agreeing that WMD probably existed in Iraq.

    Reality is just so hard to deal with isn’t it? Particularly when your selective memory has very large holes in it.

  28. wr says:

    Juneau: Selective memory? That would be your problem. The inspectors were in Iraq doing their business until Bush ordered them out so he could begin bombing. You have hallucinated any other reality. But even if that were the case, the fact is that what you call the liberal response would have been better — to spend a little time trying to figure out how to get what we wanted in the best way possible — than to rush into action without a thought of the consequences. How many hundreds of thousands of lives, how many billions of dollars could have been spared if Bush had had the temperament to actually think a problem through before rushing to action?

  29. Steve Plunk says:

    wr, I suppose Congress didn’t think things through either. Iraq was not Bush’s war but a war authorized by Congress. As is Afghanistan. Inspectors were a joke and the history of WMD use enough to justify the fears. I know people forget but WMD’s were used against the Kurds. Throw in Saddam’s failure to come clean and all the other countries who believed he had them. Blaming Bush is tiresome and wrong. Besides, weren’t we talking about a drilling moratorium?

  30. anjin-san says:

    “We know they have them, and we know where they are”.

    Case closed.

  31. anjin-san says:

    I suppose Congress didn’t think things through either.

    Absolutely. In the wake of 9/11, Congress acted like craven pussies in the fear that any vote that might look weak on national security could be career ending. They gave Bush a blank check that he cased at the cost of thousands of American lives, hundred of billions of dollars of national treasure (might be nice to have some of that to spend on our country right about now) and the loss of a unique opportunity for national solidarity and international support.

  32. Juneau: says:

    In the wake of 9/11, Congress acted like craven pussies in the fear that any vote that might look weak on national security could be career ending.

    Some people have courage to act, and some don’t. Hopefully, our country will always be fortunate enough to have men who aren’t afraid to stand up and fight in real life, rather than hide behind the keyboard of a computer and think deep thoughts.

  33. anjin-san says:

    Hopefully, our country will always be fortunate enough to have men who aren’t afraid to stand up and fight in real life,

    So when exactly are you enlisting in our armed forces? We have 2 wars going on, so here is your chance to “stand up and fight”.

  34. anjin-san says:

    BP just stopped work on the latest leak fix.

    How can any rational person oppose “drill baby, drill”?

  35. Steve Plunk says:

    Because drilling more wells will not make this leak any worse. That’s how a rational person would see it.

  36. Juneau: says:

    So when exactly are you enlisting in our armed forces? We have 2 wars going on, so here is your chance to “stand up and fight”.

    Would if I could, and I have a son who is. He didn’t like seeing folks jumping off of 1,000 ft buildings rather than burn to death because some rabid muslim freaks didn’t get a red wagon for their 9th birthday, so he decided at the tender age of 11 to become a Marine so he could do his part to keep it from happening again. We support him 100%.

    Keep thinking those deep thoughts. I know, I know, you’re an intellectual, not a fighter.