Ruling Against Drilling Moratorium Divides Lawmakers

Posted June 22, 2010 at 4:49pm

A court decision to block the Obama administration’s six-month moratorium on deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico drew reactions all over the map on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) hailed U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman’s preliminary ruling and vowed “to strongly urge the administration not to appeal.” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Tuesday that the administration would “immediately appeal” to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“I have communicated with the president and the White house and [Interior] Secretary [Ken] Salazar by letter and public statement over the last two weeks that this blanket moratoria would have a worse economic effect on the Gulf than the spill itself,” Landrieu said on a call with reporters.

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) also applauded Feldman’s decision, which Vitter said “recognizes that the president’s powers are certainly not unlimited and that this moratorium is wreaking havoc on jobs in Louisiana.”

But drilling opponents struck a starkly different tone. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) called the ruling Tuesday by the federal judge in New Orleans “shortsighted.”

“Our federal resources are stretched thin combating the BP catastrophe, and the coastal economy and natural resources are taking a beating,” he said in a statement. “President Obama made the right decision to halt dangerous deepwater drilling while additional safety tests can be conducted.”

Likewise, Rep. Ed Markey, chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, blasted the “bad decision” to allow the 33 rigs in the Gulf of Mexico to drill before a presidentially appointed commission releases its findings on safety hazards.

“We would be doing the oil rig workers and citizens of the Gulf a disservice if we did not put safety first with these few rigs,” the Massachusetts Democrat said. “The Obama administration is right to appeal, and I fully support that effort.”

Obama issued the six-month moratorium May 28 to give the safety commission time to review the events surrounding the April explosion of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf.