Lawmakers press Interior on drilling ban length

By Ayesha Rascoe

WASHINGTON (BestGrowthStock) – Lawmakers grilled Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Wednesday about his department’s six-month ban on deepwater drilling, a decision they said may cost the already battered Gulf of Mexico region thousands of jobs.

The Obama administration halted exploratory drilling at depths of more than 500 feet and instituted more stringent safety rules in response to the April explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and subsequent oil spill.

Lawmakers at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee hearing pushed back on these decisions, arguing they would hurt Gulf state economies dependent on the oil industry.

“It could potentially wreak economic havoc on this region that exceeds the havoc wreaked by the spill itself,” said Senator Mary Landrieu, a Democrat from Louisiana.

Landrieu cited a letter she received from eight experts who advised the department on its new safety recommendations but do not support the moratorium. She also said the ban could affect 330,000 jobs in Louisiana alone.

Salazar defended the administration’s response, but said it was possible the ban could be lifted in less than half a year. He said the administration has to make sure that operations are safe and that there will never be a repeat of the massive Gulf oil spill.

“If it can be done before six months, then there’s a possibility we could take a look at it before then,” Salazar told lawmakers.

But he said it would be “unwise” to move forward with deepwater drilling before the presidential commission set up to investigate the cause of the current spill offers recommendations.

Salazar said the government would hold BP Plc, whose underwater well is still gushing thousand of barrels of oil into the Gulf, responsible for job losses associated with the moratorium.

“BP is responsible for all damages that result from the BP oil spill. These are some of the consequences from that oil spill,” he said.

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(Editing by Walter Bagley)

Lawmakers press Interior on drilling ban length