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Obama WH knew drilling moratorium would cost 23,000 jobs August 25, 2010

Posted by seeineye in : Politics , add a comment

by Ed Morrissey

Remember in December when the White House said it would make a “hard pivot” from health care to jobs?  That “hard pivot” didn’t materialize until months later, and in a completely different form than one might have assumed.  The Wall Street Journal reports that the Obama administration’s moratorium on drilling in the Gulf cost Americans 23,000 jobs — and that Barack Obama knew it when he ordered it:

Senior Obama administration officials concluded the federal moratorium on deepwater oil drilling would cost roughly 23,000 jobs, but went ahead with the ban because they didn’t trust the industry’s safety equipment and the government’s own inspection process, according to previously undisclosed documents.

Critics of the moratorium, including Gulf Coast political figures and oil-industry leaders, have said it is crippling the region’s economy, and some have called on the administration to make public its economic analysis. A federal judge who in June threw out an earlier six-month moratorium faulted the administration for playing down the economic effects. …

They show the new top regulator or offshore oil exploration, Michael Bromwich, told Interior Secretary Ken Salazar that a six-month deepwater-drilling halt would result in “lost direct employment” affecting approximately 9,450 workers and “lost jobs from indirect and induced effects” affecting about 13,797 more. The July 10 memo cited an analysis by Mr. Bromwich’s agency that assumed direct employment on affected rigs would “resume normally once the rigs resume operations.”

This may have been a necessary tradeoff if the moratorium was really the needed solution.  However, even the President’s own task force on the Gulf crisis didn’t believe it to be necessary.  They publicly rebuked the White House for misleading the public by linking the ban to their analysis of the disaster, which never contemplated a blanket moratorium.

In the end, the moratorium replaced action by the administration to address the critical failings in its own regulatory regime:

In another document, William Hauser, chief of the regulations and standards branch of what was formerly called the Minerals Management Service, outlined the risks of various drilling activities in an email to colleagues and then wrote: “The more I write this stuff the more I believe we can/should/could regulate/stop activities through a prudent management process versus a moratoria scheme.”

He added, “I guess the moratoria approach is necessary because the MMS cannot be trusted to regulate.” Mr. Hauser couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.

Rather than fix their own problems (which, to be fair, predated this administration as well as continued under Obama and Salazar), Obama and his team instead imposed the ban, killing thousands of jobs and setting back the economy of the Gulf by years — literally.  The capital equipment needed to produce oil in the Gulf has begun to disperse to foreign waters, thanks to the government’s refusal to allow continued drilling by companies that had nothing to do with Deepwater Horizon.  Any new drilling will take years to restart if those rigs float away to other resources, and the capital investment that created today’s rigs may not be as easy to acquire in the wake of the arbitrary nature of Obama’s actions.

That’s one of the reasons why we’re already having trouble producing jobs.  This is just a microcosm of Obamanomics.

Great Outdoors Initiative a federal land grab? August 15, 2010

Posted by seeineye in : Politics , add a comment

by Ed Morrissey

The Boss Emeritus takes a look at a little-noticed Obama administration proposal called the Great Outdoors Initiative, a program that claims to look for the most meaningful land to Americans — and have the federal government seize it.  Washington already controls one in every three acres of American land, and the increased reach creates more cost and less opportunity for American prosperity and industry:

In April, President Obama issued a memorandum outlining his “21st century strategy for America’s great outdoors.” It was addressed to the Interior Secretary, the Agriculture Secretary, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency and the chair of the Council on Environmental Quality. The memo calls on the officials to conduct “listening and learning sessions” with the public to “identify the places that mean the most to Americans, and leverage the support of the Federal Government” to “protect” outdoor spaces. Eighteen of 25 planned sessions have already been held. But there’s much more to the agenda than simply “reconnecting Americans to nature.”

The federal government, as the memo boasted, is the nation’s “largest land manager.” It already owns roughly one of every three acres in the United States. This is apparently not enough. At a “listening session” in New Hampshire last week, government bureaucrats trained their sights on millions of private forest land throughout the New England region. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack crusaded for “the need for additional attention to the Land and Water Conservation Fund — and the need to promptly support full funding of that fund.”

Property owners have every reason to be worried. The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is a pet project of green radicals, who want the decades-old government slush fund for buying up private lands to be freed from congressional appropriations oversight. It’s paid for primarily with receipts from the government’s offshore oil and gas leases. Both Senate and House Democrats have included $900 million in full LWCF funding, not subject to congressional approval, in their energy/BP oil spill legislative packages. The Democrats have also included a provision in these packages that would require the federal government to take over energy permitting in state waters, which provoked an outcry from Texas state officials, who sent a letter of protest to Capitol Hill last month:

“In light of federal failures, it is incomprehensible that the United States Congress is entertaining proposals that expand federal authority over oil and gas drilling in state water and lands long regulated by states… Given the track record, putting the federal government in charge of energy production on state land and waters not only breaks years of successful precedent and threatens the 10th Amendment to the United Sates Constitution, but it also undermines common sense and threatens the environmental and economy security of our state’s citizens.”

In light of federal budget deficits, perhaps Washington should be looking to unload some of its real estate rather than expand its ownership of it.  California has at least broached the idea of selling its public holdings in order to reduce costs and raise funds to balance its severely dysfunctional budget.  Instead of Great Outdoors Initiatives and federal expansion of jurisdiction and control, we need a more modest approach to governance and a return to state and local control of resources and assets.

Be sure to read it all, but it also reminded me of a lighter moment.  In the classic comedy Blazing Saddles, Hedley LaMarr (Harvey Korman) had the concept well in mind:

Expert panel says Obama administration misrepresented their views on drilling moratorium June 10, 2010

Posted by seeineye in : Politics , 1 comment so far

by Ed Morrissey

When the Obama administration announced its moratorium on new off-shore drilling in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon blowout and Gulf crisis, it packaged the announcement with a series of safety recommendations given to the White House by a panel of experts on deep-sea drilling.  Now that panel has accused the White House of misleading the public by misrepresenting their report as an endorsement of the moratorium.  In fact, they say that the moratorium was the wrong way to go:

Members of a panel of experts brought in to advise the Obama administration on how to address offshore drilling safety after the Deepwater Horizon disaster now say Interior Secretary Ken Salazar falsely implied they supported a six-month drilling moratorium they actually oppose.

Salazar’s May 27 report to President Barack Obama said a panel of seven experts “peer reviewed” his recommendations, which included a six-month moratorium on all ongoing drilling in waters deeper than 500 feet. That prohibition took effect a few days later, but the angry panel members and some others who contributed to the Salazar report said they had reviewed only an earlier version of the secretary’s report that suggested a six-month moratorium only on new drilling, and then only in waters deeper than 1,000 feet.

“We broadly agree with the detailed recommendations in the report and compliment the Department of Interior for its efforts,” a joint letter from the panelists to various politicians says. “However, we do not agree with the six month blanket moratorium on floating drilling. A moratorium was added after the final review and was never agreed to by the contributors.” …

“A blanket moratorium is not the answer. It will not measurably reduce risk further and it will have a lasting impact on the nation’s economy which may be greater than that of the oil spill,” the letter says. “We do not believe punishing the innocent is the right thing to do.”

The White House backed down from its initial spin, admitting that the panel didn’t get asked about the moratorium, at least not as implemented by the White House. It’s somewhat mysterious why they would have bothered to do that anyway.  Politically, a temporary moratorium on deepwater drilling had at least significant political support.  The panel had a different focus anyway, but the moratorium is less a safety issue than a recognition that the regulators have not been effective in this field at stopping this kind of potential disaster.

Instead of just relying on its own intellectual candlepower for the decision, Barack Obama and Ken Salazar apparently wanted some cover for their decision, and tried pulling a bait-and-switch on their own expert panel.  That certainly isn’t going to instill confidence in the leadership of this administration or its competence, both in the crisis at hand and in general.  Shooting themselves in the foot in their public-relations efforts and antagonizing the people they need to solve the catastrophe is the last thing they or any of us need at the moment.