Gulf oil spill should not be exploited for political gain

It’s been more than two months since oil started flowing into the Gulf of Mexico, and as folks along the Gulf Coast continue to deal with the personal, economic and environmental effects of this tragedy, I’m alarmed some in Washington have seized upon this very real and ongoing crisis as an opportunity to further their political agendas. 

Instead of real solutions, in typical Washington fashion, the policies following this spill are not solutions at all, but setbacks for people all along the coast. Some of my Senate colleagues and this administration have used the spill as an excuse to place a moratorium on offshore drilling — a decision that would destroy tens of thousands of jobs in the Gulf as energy companies move their businesses away from the coast. This decision isn’t helping Louisianians — it’s shutting down huge parts of our economy and will only cost us more jobs and more economic devastation.

Fortunately, just this week a federal district judge issued a ruling blocking the moratorium. I applaud this common-sense decision, which recognizes that the president’s powers are certainly not unlimited and that this moratorium is wreaking havoc on jobs in Louisiana. And I hope that, even though the administration plans to appeal the ruling, higher courts will recognize that the moratorium was a bad decision and the wrong response to the oil spill. The best way to prevent future oil spills is not to stop drilling altogether, but to improve the inspection process to ensure that our rigs are safe.

Liberals have also capitalized on this tragedy as an excuse to raid the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund — money intended to pay for damages caused by an oil spill — to pay for new government spending instead. Their proposal would dramatically raise taxes for the trust fund and then double-count those same dollars to pay for a grab bag of deficit spending. Stealing money from the trust fund to pay for their own runaway government spending is another sad example of the same old Washington politics, and the American people are sick of it. That’s why I introduced an amendment to prevent the money in the trust fund from being used to offset other unrelated expenditures in the federal budget and mask the full impact to the deficit.

Perhaps most outrageous of all, the Senate recently rejected an effort to keep the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from moving forward with one of the most significant economy-destroying regulations in the history of this country — cap-and-tax.  Such a move would make energy more expensive and jobs scarcer, putting a tremendous burden on American families who are already struggling to make ends meet. And it would particularly hurt Louisiana because our economy is so dependent on oil and gas production. Yet proponents reference the catastrophe off our coast as justification for it all as they try to use this tragic oil spill as an opportunity to let a handful of bureaucrats at the EPA decide our economic future.

President Barack Obama has made clear he supports such a cap-and-tax system — a system that would limit America’s sovereignty by giving control of a major part of our economy to other nations who do not have our best interests in mind. Previous international treaties like the Kyoto Protocol have proven unenforceable, and there is no reason to believe this time would be any different. But the administration and its allies in Congress continue to push this ill-advised policy, and this time, they’re trying to exploit the disaster off the coast of Louisiana to push their radical agenda.

Louisianians deserve more than the use of the ongoing tragedy in the Gulf to force job-killing policies on them. This is a time for the federal government to focus on solving the crisis at hand, and I will continue to fight against any efforts by my colleagues or this administration to use it as a mechanism to create policies that will shut down huge parts of our economy.

Sen. Vitter is a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee.