Monday, November 15, 2010

Offshore Drilling Moratorium Continues With Permits Backlog

Lifting the offshore deep water drilling moratorium was only the first step to ending the job killing efforts of this administration towards the oil drilling industry. Now the crucial step of issuing permits must step up and catch up with the back log produced by confusion and unrealistic expectations.

What is languishing, according to the oil industry, is permits for deepwater wells that will lead to new discoveries. Two permits for new wells submitted during the moratorium are still pending. The agency has only received one application since the moratorium was lifted.

Lee Hunt, executive director of the International Association of Drilling Contracts, says that the dearth of applications is due to new requirements for four times the worst-case spill estimates.

That number is crucial since they affect the resources companies are required to be able to mobilize within 24 to 36 hours.

Four times the worst case scenarios? From where was that number pulled? It appears as a deliberate strategy to crush the industry. No one disputes the need for responsible emergency disaster plans and ready resources, most of all those of us living along the Gulf Coast. But, this has the appearance of deliberate and ham handed ideology at play.

While the moratorium was lifted on Oct. 12, more than a month ahead of schedule, only two new permits for deepwater wells have been issued by the Bureau of Ocean Energy, Management, Regulation and Enforcement. Significantly, neither of those permits would have been prevented by the moratorium since they deal with activity that was not forbidden by the ban.

Many companies are making every sacrifice possible to hang on until the working atmosphere in the Gulf of Mexico is stabilized for the drilling industry. While it is easy to demagogue the oil drilling industry as "Big Oil" and make the ridiculous assumptions associated with that, the fact is that few companies fall into that category. Certainly the service companies, without whom the industry does not function, run on lean budgets to survive. There simply is no extra funding laying around for imagined emergencies.

The delay and the existence of a backlog of permit applications is further proof that this administration is determined to rule our country's energy policy through the lens of their own political ideology. Bowing to pressures from special interest groups, they are content to allow drilling offshore in the Gulf of Mexico to languish in limbo.

The most regulated and taxed industry in our country - the energy sector - continues to make adjustments and work with regulators. Excessive demands just for show are not conducive to meeting our energy needs.

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