Senators' quandary in BP oil spill hearing: safety vs. jobs
A Senate hearing Wednesday looked at the recommendations of the presidential study commissioned after the BP oil spill. The study supports a six-month moratorium on new deepwater drilling, despite concerns that the pause will further harm the Gulf Coast economy.
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But it was Salazar's offhand remark that he and the president had "hit the pause button" in adopting a six-month moratorium on new deepwater drilling that struck a chord with Republican senators. They quizzed him to find out just how long the "pause" would delay the oil and gas industry in pursuing new deepwater drilling.Skip to next paragraph
The Gulf of Mexico has nearly 7,000 active leases, 64 percent of which are in deep water, the report stated. There are today about 3,600 oil-producing rigs and other structures in the Gulf accounting for 31 percent of total domestic oil production and 11 percent of US natural gas production. Add to that the majority of some 150,000 oil production jobs on the outer continental shelf.
Citing a letter by eight of 15 engineering experts that reviewed the 30-day safety review, several senators noted that the six-month moratorium was not the recommendation of the majority of the group.
"This report includes important recommendations," said Sen. Mary Landrieu (R) of Louisiana, but she said she agreed with the experts, that "this temporary pause, if it lasts very much longer than a few months ... could potentially wreak economic havoc that exceeds havoc wreaked by the spill itself."
Salazar said simply that the six-month moratorium was his and the president's determination – and not the oil experts’ – that the pause was needed.
"I'm wondering if you are looking at any way of lifting the moratorium, pressing the pause button again sooner" than six months, he said. Salazar seemed to leave the door ajar to that.
"There's a possibility we could take a look at it before then," he said, "But right now we have multiple investigations" going and it would be "unwise for us to move forward with deepwater drilling unless we have before us those recommendations that we can implement."
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