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Gulf oil spill: Lawmakers push drilling in deep water

June 16, 2010 | 11:05 am

As President Obama met with BP officials, Gulf Coast lawmakers Wednesday stepped up their efforts on Capitol Hill to lift the administration’s six-month deep-water drilling moratorium, which they contend is threatening their region’s fragile economy.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) went to the Senate floor, saying the moratorium could cause "even more economic damage than the spill itself" to her state. "I know that we have to make sure that these 33 floating rigs that drill in deep water ... are safe," she said, "but I want to say unequivocally, with the support of the vast majority of people in my state: Six months is too long. The deep-water industry cannot survive in the gulf with a six-month pause."

A bipartisan group of the lawmakers is scheduled to meet Wednesday afternoon with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in the Capitol to discuss their concerns about the moratorium. Legislation to allow deep-water drilling to resume also has been introduced with the backing of Gulf Coast lawmakers and a number of pro-drilling lawmakers from other states who say the moratorium threatens an important supply of domestic oil.

"The president didn’t say to people last night to park your cars and walk to work," Landrieu said, referring to  Obama's Oval Office address Tuesday night, in which he called for action to end the nation's "century-long addiction to fossil fuels."

"For decades, we have known the days of cheap and easily accessible oil were numbered. For decades, we have talked and talked about the need to end America’s century-long addiction to fossil fuels. And for decades, we have failed to act with the sense of urgency that this challenge requires. Time and again, the path forward has been blocked -- not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by a lack of political courage and candor.

The consequences of our inaction are now in plain sight. Countries like China are investing in clean energy jobs and industries that should be here in America. Each day, we send nearly $1 billion of our wealth to foreign countries for their oil. And today, as we look to the gulf, we see an entire way of life being threatened by a menacing cloud of black crude.

We cannot consign our children to this future.The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now. Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash American innovation and seize control of our own destiny."

The moratorium essentially shut down 33 gulf rigs that were poised to drill. Landrieu said that was tantamount to "closing 12 large motor vehicle assembly plants in one state.’’ The administration has said the moratorium is designed to give a presidential commission time to consider new safety measures for drilling.

BP chief Tony Hayward is due to undergo a much-anticipated grilling Thursday in his first appearance before a congressional committee investigating the April 20 Deepwater Horizon oil-rig explosion.

-- Richard Simon, in Washington