Bobby Jindal Asks Obama To End Moratorium On Deepwater Drilling

06/03/2010 12:14 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Sam Stein Senior Politics Editor, The Huffington Post

The White House has responded to Jindal, see update below.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal wrote President Obama a letter on Wednesday criticizing his decision to implement a temporary moratorium of deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

Arguing that his state had already suffered crippling economic consequences, the Louisiana Republican urged Obama to rethink his decision to suspend activity at 33 previously permitted deepwater drilling rigs -- including 22 "currently in operation off the Louisiana coast."

Joining Jindal in his call to lift the moratorium is Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) who accused the Obama administration of pursuing a policy that "could kill thousands of Louisiana jobs."

In his letter, Gov. Jindal said his state was facing "one of the most challenging economic periods in decades."

"The last thing we need is to enact public policies that will certainly destroy thousands of existing jobs while preventing the creation of thousands more," he added.

"I fully understand the need for strict oversight of deepwater drilling," Jindal wrote. "However, I would ask that the federal government move quickly to ensure that all deepwater drilling is in proper compliance with federal regulation and is conducted safely so that energy production and more importantly, thousands of jobs, are not in limbo."

The undertone of the letter is that of a governor whose political livelihood is, in no small way, dependent on stemming the economic damage of the current spill. Certainly, Jindal's national political ambitions correspond with the idea that offshore drilling (including the deepwater variety) should not be interrupted -- merely made safer.

But the context of the note to Obama is a peculiar one. For starters, an investigation into what went wrong with the current spill has yet to conclude -- meaning that the same technical problems could still pop up at other sites. Moreover, Jindal has been quite public and aggressive with his insistence that BP has been less than capable in managing the fallout of the spill it has caused. He made explicit calls for the "federal government to force BP to act responsible" and for the oil company to "either begin the work or get out of the way,"

But the oil company that Jindal (and others) are now demonizing would be overseeing a good chunk of the deepwater drilling that he wants put back online. Of the 33 permitted deepwater drilling rigs that Jindal wants to continue operating, two are under BP leases and two are operating under leases controlled jointly by BP and Devon, according to a federal official.

Toby Odone, a spokesperson for BP, confirmed to the Huffington Post that the company current operates in the following "fields" in the Gulf of Mexico: "Atlantis, Thunder Horse, Mad Dog, Pompano, Marlin, Horn Mountain and Na Kika."

"We also have non-operating interests in fields such as Mars, Ursa, Diana, Hoover and Ram Powell," said Odone.

Read Gov. Jindal's letter to President Obama::

Here's an excerpt from Sen. Vitter's message on lifting the moratorium:

Louisiana has been witnessing a severe lack of urgency and understanding from the Obama Administration and BP. Our state and our way of life continue to be under attack from the devastating oil spill, and now to make matters worse, President Obama's has imposed a moratorium and shut down drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Unless we lift Obama's moratorium, it could kill thousands of Louisiana jobs.

Rigs won't wait idly for six months, they'll move overseas to places like West Africa or Brazil and take jobs with them. I have called on President Obama to replace his recently announced shutdown of deepwater rigs for immediate rig safety inspections.

This moratorium is estimated to kill up to 10,000 Louisiana jobs and possibly 20,000 jobs throughout the course of the year. Our workforce and economy have been significantly impacted from the oil spill, but Obama's offshore moratorium could threaten potential revenue for Louisiana and be even more devastating.

UPDATE: A White House official emails over a rather blunt response. The gist is simple: while Jindal and others may think dire economic consequences will result from the moratorium, it would be far more perilous and catastrophic if another spill took place.

The 6-month moratorium on deepwater drilling was instituted for a clear reason: the President believes we must ensure that the BP Deepwater Horizon spill is never repeated. This will allow for the new safety equipment and procedures announced in Secretary Salazar's May 27th report to be implemented and for the independent commission to review the cause of the spill and analyze the rules and regulations governing offshore drilling.

A repeat of the BP Deepwater Horizon spill would have grave economic consequences for regional commerce and do further damage to the environment.

Among the drilling rigs that have frozen exploration in the Gulf are 2 operated by BP, and 2 jointly operated by BP and another company. Proceeding without the moratorium would mean that BP would continue deepwater exploration in the Gulf.

Economic impacts were certainly taken into account - the moratorium is surgical and shallow water drilling, in which the risks are better known, is continuing under stricter safety rules. Additionally, oil and gas production is continuing at the existing set of production wells, so we are not expecting short term effects on our oil and gas supply.

Under the administration's legislative proposal to assist those harmed by the spill, workers unemployed because of the 6-month moratorium would be eligible for unemployment assistance. The proposal would also create jobs for cleanup, restoration, renovation and recovery. And the Small Business Administration is currently offering economic injury loans to impacted businesses on the Gulf Coast.