Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Times Picayune backs big oil again

It really looks like the New Orleans Times Picayune editors are in bed with an oil industry that has destroyed Louisiana's fishing industry and severely damaged its tourism industry. Today's editorial supporting federal judge Martin Feldman's ruling against the six month moratorium on drilling in the Gulf is nothing but oil industry propaganda. Unless the industry immediately enacts strict and effective safety standards it should not be allowed to continue business as usual. Paying damages after the disaster occurs will not cut it. Strict oversight is imperative, but if the industry continues to deliberately ignore safety measures in standard operating procedure it should be shut down for the public good until it comes to its senses. Complaining that it costs jobs is a spurious argument. Arguing that jobs justify the continued use of unsafe practices is more than just a false premise. The oil industry has given no indication that it even recognizes the problem. Deepwater Horizon was not an accident. It was a predictable result. The irresponsible parties must be held accountable until they agree to revise their operating standards, and offer a plan to do so. They must not be allowed to pursue their criminal activities until then. Defending the oil industry under the pemise that it provides jobs is like saying that drug kingpins should be allowed to operate their present day version of Murder Inc. because they provide jobs. Murder is murder. The Times Picayune's disgraceful position is directly tied to the advertising money from the oil industry.

Here's the editorial:

In blocking President Barack Obama's broad moratorium on deepwater drilling, U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman cut straight to the heart of the administration's flawed reasoning.

The blanket moratorium, the judge wrote, "seems to assume that because one rig failed and although no one yet fully knows why, all companies and rigs drilling new wells over 500 feet also universally present an imminent danger.''

"The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is an unprecedented, sad, ugly and inhuman disaster,'' the ruling stated. "What seems clear is that the federal government has been pressed by what happened...into an otherwise sweeping confirmation that all Gulf deepwater drilling activities put us all in a universal threat of irreparable harm.''

That is the assumption behind the six-month moratorium ordered by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. It was challenged in court by three companies that provide support services to offshore drilling.

In Judge Feldman's eyes, the federal government hasn't justified what he called a "punitive'' moratorium. Instead, he said, the plaintiffs are likely to succeed in showing that the administration "acted arbitrarily and capriciously.''

That's critical. While the judge notes case law that says the court can't substitute its judgment for that of an agency like the Interior Department, the agency must articulate a "rational connection between the facts found and the choice made.'' That hasn't happened. In fact, Judge Feldman points out that the Interior Department report made no effort to explicitly justify the six-month moratorium and doesn't discuss the irreparable harm that would warrant a suspension of operations.

The court "is unable to divine or fathom a relationship between the findings and the immense scope of the moratorium.''

The judge criticized the report for stating that its recommendations had been peer-reviewed by seven National Academy of Engineering experts. The judge pointed out that five of those experts and three of the other experts who were consulted say that they do not agree with the blanket moratorium, a fact that was first reported in The Times-Picayune.

Judge Feldman also recognizes something that the Obama administration hasn't seemed to grasp: how vital this industry is to our region's economy. The judge called it "quite simply elemental to the Gulf communities.''

"The effect on employment, jobs, loss of domestic energy supplies caused by the moratorium as the plaintiffs (and other suppliers, and the rigs themselves) lose business, and the movement of the rigs to other sites around the world will clearly ripple throughout the economy in this region,'' the judge wrote.

Judge Feldman's ruling validates what Louisianians have been arguing for weeks: that the administration's broad drilling ban isn't justified and stands to cause even greater economic harm to this state than the devastating oil spill itself.

The preliminary injunction doesn't erase the likelihood that oil rigs will pick up and move to other countries. Companies are unlikely to gamble that the plaintiffs will prevail. The Obama administration was quick to say that it will appeal the ruling. Considering the grave economic consequences posed by the moratorium, the appeal should be handled as expeditiously as possible.

The administration's determination to fight the preliminary injunction is disappointing. Judge Feldman's ruling offered an opportunity for the White House to reconsider its action and take a more targeted approach to ensuring safety on deepwater rigs. Instead officials are digging in their heels, and while they might ultimately lose this legal battle, thousands of Louisianians could still be left without jobs.

No comments: