Salazar's attack on oil and gas jobs

LA Times:


The helicopter touched down on a massive drilling rig. Salazar was soon hiking up the metal stairs and through the air-conditioned control rooms of the Development Driller II, interrogating officials from BP and Transocean Ltd. on the progress of their efforts to tap into the runaway well 1,000 yards to the southwest and 5,000 feet below the surface. He draped an arm around the backs of workers, leaning in close to listen.

After Salazar moved on, however, camaraderie turned to caution. It was not lost on anyone that the man in the Interior Department cap had called a six-month halt to deep-water drilling.

"A lot of guys on this rig are wondering if they're going to have a job in four or five months," said Keith Jubb, the vessel's captain and a 32-year drilling veteran.

Salazar's flight to the Development Driller II this month was in many ways a dramatization of the challenges facing the Obama administration as it responds to the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

The administration, including the Cabinet secretary the president has thrust to the forefront, must find ways to stop the leak, clean up millions of gallons of crude and take steps to reassure the public it won't happen again. But the means it has chosen, a six-month moratorium on deep-water drilling, risks the fiscal health of the offshore oil industry that sustains much of the Gulf Coast economy.

It is in some ways typical territory for Salazar. As Colorado's attorney general, a U.S. senator and now Interior secretary, Salazar has sought out the sort of compromises that rarely leave anyone completely happy.

Since taking over Interior, the 55-year-old native of Colorado's San Luis Valley has elbowed his way into some of President Obama's highest-profile initiatives, some outside the traditional parameters of his job. Salazar steered an agency largely concerned with leasing and collecting royalties on federal deposits of oil and gas into the thick of the administration's renewable-energy push, seeding solar projects on federal land and wind farms in federal waters.

But all the effort, Salazar acknowledged, may be offset by an oil spill that threatens to consume his ambitious agenda and perhaps cost his job.

"With respect to our safety regulations and the standards," Salazar said, "we should have done more."

On the deck of the rig, where workers are drilling one of the two relief wells that aim to reach BP's Mississippi Canyon 252 well so it can be plugged with cement, Salazar peppered his BP and Transocean hosts with questions: Are you confident you'll succeed? Do you have every resource you need? What happens in the event of a hurricane?

He also admonished Jubb, the captain: "Stay focused."

Conservative critics say Salazar has consistently attacked oil and gas jobs as secretary, rescinding some drilling leases and tightening environmental regulations onshore. "What he talks is a very decent, respectful game" to oil and gas companies, said Rep. Rob Bishop (R- Utah). "But the actions that have come out of his Department of Interior have been one blow after another blow."

The relief wells point out the silliness of the moratorium. If the leak can be solved with relief wells, why isn't it safe to drill other wells? Why does the moratorium not include the relief wells. Aren't they in deep water? We should not allow this anti energy administration to use the Gulf blowout as an excuse to limit offshore production of oil and gas.


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