A Gulf State senator warned that a protracted legal battle over the Obama administration's temporary ban on deepwater offshore drilling has led to a "de facto moratorium" in the Gulf.
In an interview on the conservative "Dateline Washington" radio program, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) said, "The good news is that the courts so far have rejected so far the president's having proper authority to impose the drastic moratorium." He explained that the full case will not be heard for a couple weeks, and "because of all this uncertainty, no companies are rushing out to restart operations in the gulf, so there is a de facto moratorium that is killing us economically. If this continues," argued Vitter, "it will cost us far more jobs than the oil itself."
The administration and its supporters say that the moratorium is needed to protect the Gulf from another oil drilling disaster and want it in place until investigators determine the cause of the BP oil spill.
But Gulf state lawmakers from both parties say the moratorium is doing damage to the economy in an area where the large commericial fishing industry has already been severely affected.
Vitter, who serves on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, called the ongoing legal battle "bad news." Even if the Obama administration loses the court case, they have said they will issue a new moratorium on deepshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. "Even if our side wins in court, they're going to keep it up, keep it up, keep it up, and have a de facto moratorium," he explained.
He said that the same thing is happening in shallow water right now, though "no new permit has been issued since the Deepwater Horizon incident."
"The bottom line is that this is killing, killing us economically," said Vitter, whose state is the most affected by spill.
Vitter expressed concern that rigs would continue to be placed outside the Gulf. "I believe four major deepwater drilling rigs have moved out already...I'm afraid that's going to be a steady stream until we have clear action ending the moratorium, and that's what we're all concerned about."