Sen. Landrieu Offers President Obama Alternatives to Six-Month Deepwater Drilling Moratorium

June 11, 2010

WASHINGTON — In a letter to President Barack Obama, United States Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., today outlined a series of steps to safely move forward with offshore energy production without imposing an arbitrary six-month drilling moratorium that could cost Gulf Coast residents tens of thousands of jobs. On May 28th, Secretary Salazar suspended, for six months, all pending, current or approved offshore drilling operations in water depths greater than 500 feet.

“In an effort to ensure that such a terrible tragedy never occurs again, your Administration imposed a moratorium on new deepwater drilling,” Sen. Landrieu wrote. “Unfortunately, I fear that this action could exacerbate, rather than alleviate, the impacts of this spill upon both our economy and our environment. Therefore, I write to urge your immediate reconsideration of the blanket six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling projects and ask that you consider instead a series of fundamental changes to offshore drilling practices that will serve to demonstrably reduce the risk of deepwater drilling while sparing the Gulf Coast’s economic vitality.”

In the letter, Sen. Landrieu acknowledged the importance of ensuring another accident of this magnitude can never happen again. But rather than endorsing a six-month “pause” for deepwater drilling operations in federal waters, Sen. Landrieu identified eight recommendations that could achieve the Administration’s safety and oversight goals without crippling Gulf states’ economies. These include: immediately allowing these rigs to resume “drilling through dirt” — that is, drilling toward the targeted oil and gas reservoirs without allowing the hydrocarbon reservoirs to be penetrated; identifying critical processes associated with the drilling and completion of deepwater wells based on systemic risk analysis; deploying federal inspectors to examine all surface and subsea well control equipment currently being used to ensure that it has been properly maintained and is capable of shutting in the well during emergency operations; rigorously inspecting each operators drilling and casing/completion practices to ensure that well control contingencies are not compromised at any point; and compelling rig operators to demonstrate that they have the emergency power equipment to ensure proper operation.

“I understand and respect your efforts to reduce the risk of a second massive blowout in the Gulf,” Sen. Landrieu wrote. “However, I believe that we can demonstrably improve the safety of deepwater drilling without shutting down the Gulf Coast economy for more than six months. The proposal I outline below will not eliminate all risk. But there are no risk-free ways of producing the energy we rely on today.”

Sen. Landrieu also reiterated the need for the Obama Administration to signal a date certain that deepwater drilling can re-start and to establish a clear and coherent set of benchmarks that it hopes to achieve in this “pause” of deepwater drilling.

In the last week, Sen. Landrieu has urged the Administration to strike a balance between improving safety standards and recognizing the significance of the oil and gas industry to Louisiana’s economy and America’s energy security. In all, more than 300,000 Louisianians are employed either directly or indirectly by the oil and gas industry. According to the Offshore Marine Service Administration and the National Ocean Industries Association, a prolonged moratorium could put up to up 100,000 people out of work.

‘The immediate impacts to the economy are devastating enough: idling the 33 rigs currently permitted to drill in the deepwater Gulf would immediately impact employment for roughly 38,000 crewmen, deck hands, engineers, welders, ROV operators, caterers, helicopter pilots, and others who operate and service these vessels,” Sen. Landrieu wrote. “That’s like closing 12 large motor vehicle assembly plants in one state, all at once. Moreover, that figure does not take into account the thousands of jobs generated by producing oil and gas offshore Louisiana – to our service sector, recreation and tourism, etc. The oil and gas sector directly employs some 15 percent of Louisiana’s workforce. We cannot simply close down that sector without devastating economic impacts.”

To view the full letter to President Obama, please visit here.

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