06/09/2010 04:00 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

John Culberson: Gulf Oil Spill Is A 'Statistical Anomaly,' Texas Congressman Says

Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) took his opposition to the Obama Administration's decision to enact a six-month moratorium on deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico directly to the President Wednesday, sending him a letter that asked him to view the ongoing BP oil spill in its "proper historical context as a statistical anomaly."

In the letter, Culberson acknowledges that the "Deepwater Horizon incident was a terrible human tragedy with devastating environmental consequences," but not terrible enough for President Obama to take the drastic action of halting such operations for six months, Culberson said.

His argument? The record since 1985 shows that deep-water rigs have produced 7 billion barrels of oil, while spilling less than 0.001 percent of it. Culberson calls it "a 99.999% record for clean operations." He then encourages Obama not to ignore that "35-year record of safety," (though it appears that only 25 years have passed since 1985).

Here's the whole letter, which includes Culberson's full argument about the economic importance of offshore drilling, via the Washington Post's Dave Weigel:

The President
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

I write to express my strong opposition to the U.S. Department of the Interior's six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. I am concerned that the decision to impose the moratorium is based more on emotion than fact. The Deepwater Horizon incident was a terrible human tragedy with devastating environmental consequences, but it must be viewed in the proper historical context as a statistical anomaly. The government's own records show that since 1985, more than 7 billion barrels of oil have been produced in federal offshore waters with less than 0.001 percent spilled - a 99.999% record for clean operations. That 35-year record of safety should not be ignored in the haste to respond to public discord.

Analysis from the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association shows the moratorium would put as many as 1,400 jobs per platform at risk, and lost wages could reach $10 million per month per platform and up to $330 million per month for all 33 platforms. Our economy is struggling mightily, and this drilling halt will adversely impact small businesses down the entire supply chain. The effect will extend far past the oil industry and be most damaging in the Gulf region, where a range of businesses from restaurants and cleaners to hardware stores and garages depend on a robust offshore industry. The Gulf Coast is already suffering from the emotional and physical trauma of the Deepwater Horizon incident, and this moratorium will only add financial trauma to their plight.

According to the Minerals Management Service, 80 percent of the U.S. supply of oil developed offshore comes from deepwater drilling. That amount is projected to rise dramatically in the coming decades, and any moratorium on domestic production will only increase our dependence on foreign nations that are often hostile to America's interests. Adding to the volatility is the fact that transporting oil is extremely dangerous and poses a much more serious threat to our environment than drilling in U.S. waters.

Further complicating matters is the current confusion over the Interior Department's freeze in approving any shallow water drilling permits. While I understand the Department has stated that such permits may go forward as soon as operators can demonstrate adoption of enhanced safety standards, the industry requires further clarification from the administration as to exactly what those standards will be. Companies will then need additional time to understand the changes and deploy new standards and technology to meet the requirements. I fear the delay equates to a de-facto moratorium on shallow water drilling, only adding to the economic uncertainty and instability in the Gulf region. These companies, their workers, and all Americans who depend on the energy they produce need swift action from the department to get back to work.

I strongly encourage you not to punish the entire oil and gas industry because of any mistakes that were made on Deepwater Horizon. This shortsighted moratorium is harmful to America and our fragile economy, and it will mire domestic energy production in a confusing and ineffective bureaucracy. I implore you to lift the moratorium and allow responsible drilling off of our coasts to continue.


John Culberson
Member of Congress