As part of its response to BP’s disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama administration in June issued a 6-month moratorium on deepwater offshore drilling in order to survey drilling safety measures and prevent a similar spill.
While the oil and gas industry went to court to prevent the moratorium from taking effect, Republicans responded by issuing fear-mongering rhetoric. The moratorium “could kill thousands of Louisiana jobs,” Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) said, while Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) called it “a second assault on the Gulf.” Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), who has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the oil and gas industry, called on Obama to lift the temporary ban and claimed the moratorium would be worse for the Gulf region, economically, than the oil spill itself:
As I stated, there is no one more environmentally devastated by this oil disaster than the people of the Gulf Coast. It’s our coast, our marshes, and our way of life that is being impacted. However, despite the ongoing oil spill disaster, the great majority of Gulf Coast citizens feel strongly that the administration’s deepwater moratorium is a major mistake. Simply put, it will cost us more jobs and economic devastation than the oil spill itself.
But as it turns out, Vitter and his GOP colleagues’ rhetoric was mere hyperbole. The New York Times reports today that their dire predictions “failed to materialize”:
[T]he worst of those forecasts has failed to materialize, as companies wait to see how long the moratorium will last before making critical decisions on spending cuts and layoffs. Unemployment claims related to the oil industry along the Gulf Coast have been in the hundreds, not the thousands, and while oil production from the gulf is down because of the drilling halt, supplies from the region are expected to rebound in future years.
The Times reports that “[e]ven the government’s estimate of the impact of the drilling pause — 23,000 lost jobs and $10.2 billion in economic damage — is proving to be too pessimistic.”
But the news is unlikely to pull Vitter away from his close ties to Big Oil. The Louisiana senator introduced a bill shortly after the Gulf spill to limit BP’s liability to the amount of its profit in the last four quarters, or $150 million, whichever is greater. (BP ended up agreeing to a preliminary $20 billion liability fund). And in 2000, while a member of the House, Vitter introduced a bill (which never became law) to reduce oil companies’ criminal liability for spills.