June 10, 2010

(Deep-) Watergate: Experts Askedto Review/Inform Salazar’s Offshore Report Say Deepwater Moratorium Rec WasAdded After the Fact – And They Oppose It. WallStreet Journal (6/10) editorializes, "In the wake of the oil spill,President Obama asked Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to produce a report on newdrilling safety recommendations. Then on May 27 Mr. Obama announced a six-monthdeep water drilling ban, justifying it on the basis of Mr. Salazar’s report, atop recommendation of which was the moratorium. To lend an air of technical authority,the report noted: "The recommendations contained in this report have beenpeer-reviewed by seven experts identified by the National Academy ofEngineering."  That would befalse, sir. In a scathing statement this week, the seven experts explained thatthe report draft they had reviewed did not include a six-month drillingmoratorium. That was added only after they signed off. "The Secretaryshould be free to recommend whatever he thinks is correct, but he should not befree to use our names to justify his political decisions," wrote the sevenin a letter to Gulf Coast politicians. One of the seven, University ofCalifornia at Berkeley engineering professor Bob Bea, further explained in anemail cited in the New Orleans Times-Picayune: "Moratorium was not apart" of the "report we consulted-advised-reviewed. Click here to read the cover letter, and here to get the meat.

You Know It’s Bad When: Even aProfessor from Cal-Berkeley is Among the Those Chiding the White House for Letting"Emotions" Get in the Way of "Facts."NewOrleans Times-Picayune (6/9) reports, "One of the panelists who signed theletter, University of California at Berkeley engineering professor Bob Bea,said in an e-mail message that a moratorium should be reserved for"unconventional, very hazardous operations" and shouldn’t apply tothe "majority of conventional offshore operations, (which) meetfundamental requirements for acceptable risks."  "Moratorium was not a part of the … report weconsulted-advised-reviewed," Bea wrote. "Word from DOI (InteriorDepartment) was it was a W(hite) H(ouse) request." The National Academy ofEngineering provided seven reviewers for Salazar’s safety report, and the academy’sKen Arnold, an oil and gas industry consultant, wrote a scathing cover letterTuesday that concludes: "The Secretary should be free to recommendwhatever he thinks is correct, but he should not be free to use our names tojustify his political decisions." "We didn’t mean to imply that theyalso agreed with the moratorium on deepwater drilling," the spokeswoman,Kendra Barkoff, said.

Louisiana Reps. Nearly Jump DownOff the Dais Upon Hearing of How the Moratorium Sausage Was Made As Part ofDeepwater-Gate. WallStreet Journal (6/9) reports, "The eight experts – all longtime petroleumengineers, some affiliated with major universities – are listed in a reportpublished by the Interior Department last month as having "peer reviewed"Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s recommendations on improving the safety ofdrilling on the outer continental shelf in the wake of the April 20 oil rigexplosion in the Gulf of Mexico. A Salazar spokeswoman acknowledged the experts"were not asked to review or comment on the proposed moratorium and that theypeer-reviewed the report on a technical basis." She added the moratorium wasbased on "the need for a comprehensive review of safety in deepwater operationsin light of the BP oil spill." Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy (R., La.) seized onthe engineers’ statement, calling it "further proof that [Obama] administrationpolicy is guided by emotion and politics, not facts." "Thousands of Louisianansare going to be out of work because the president wanted a get-tough headline,"he said.

King Kenneth Forced to ‘Fess Upin Wake of Deepwater-Gate: "It Was My Decision and the President’s Decision." E&E News (6/9,subs. req’d) reports, "We understand the need to undertake the limitedmoratorium and actions described in the draft report to assure the public thatsomething tangible is being done," the dissenting panelists wrote. "Ablanket moratorium is not the answer. It will not measurably reduce riskfurther and it will have a lasting impact on the nation’s economy which may begreater than that of the spill." Landrieu criticized Salazar for the moveat a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing today. "Thistemporary pause, if it lasts very much longer than a few months — not six,just a few months — it could potentially wreak economic havoc on this regionthat exceeds the havoc wreaked by the spill itself," Landrieu said.Landrieu said the moratorium is halting production on 33 deepwater rigs, whichhave 100 to 200 workers each, and also will affect four or five jobs thatdirectly support every one of those positions. Salazar said he appreciated andaccepted the recommendations from the experts but added, "It was not theirdecision on the moratorium, it was my decision and the president’sdecision."

Meanwhile, Over on the ChampionsTour, Senate Expected to Begin Debate on Murkowski Resolution at 9:30 AM; Out-of-CycleDems Starting to Talk Tough. E&E News (6/10,subs. req’d) reports, "Sens. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.),co-sponsors of a separate effort to limit EPA’s regulatory authority, said theywould vote against the Alaska Republican’s resolution. Sen. Sherrod Brown(D-Ohio) and Democratic Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan alsosaid they would oppose the measure. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) said earlier thisweek that he would vote "no."Conrad said he does not think that EPA’sscientific endangerment finding "should be lightly overturned."Headded that the measure "has no prospect of succeeding" because it isunlikely the House will consider it and because it faces an Obama veto.Moderate Democratic Sens. James Webb of Virginia, Byron Dorgan of North Dakotaand Mark Begich of Alaska all said they are likely to vote against theresolution today. Debate on the measure is expected to kick off today at 9:30a.m. The Senate will then debate on a motion to proceed for six hours. If themotion passes, the chamber will debate the resolution for another hour prior tothe final vote. No filibusters or amendments are allowed.

Rebel Yell: Fmr. Student BodyPresident of Ole Miss All Grown Up – And More Than Willing to School Menendezand Crew on Patent Illegality of Their Offshore Liability Bill. Platts(6/8) reports, "The NTL also states that the causes of the explosion on theDeepwater Horizon rig are still under investigation. "So, if that is thecase, what additional safety or environmental protection equipment isnecessary?" Coleman asked. "Where is the list of such necessaryequipment? Why is it necessary to require drilling to stop for six months towait on a report from a non-technical commission that is not expert in safetyand environmental equipment?" He also said it is "highly questionable," that a blanketsix-month moratorium is necessary because, as the NTL put it, "undercurrent conditions deepwater drilling poses an unacceptable threat of seriousharm or damage." "What current conditions are referenced here thatcauses deepwater drilling to pose an unacceptable threat?" he asked."What is an unacceptable threat? Is the fact that many thousands ofdeepwater wells have been drilled before having a sea-floor blowout anunacceptable threat?  "I donot believe that a court of competent jurisdiction would agree with theadministration’s judgment on those questions," Coleman said.

IEA Warns that Lost Output Owingto Obama’s Hasty Decision in Deepwater Gulf Could Cost American Consumers300,000 Barrels of Domestic Oil a Day.WallStreet Journal (6/10) reports, "The International Energy Agency on Thursdayraised its 2010 world oil-demand forecast but warned that up to 300,000 barrelsa day of future U.S. output may be at risk if a drilling moratorium isextended.  In its monthlyoil-market report, the Paris-based agency increased its forecast for global oildemand by 60,000 barrels a day to 86.4 million barrels a day in 2010.  The raised outlook contrasts withWednesday’s cut in Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries’s forecast byabout 10,000 barrels a day. OPEC kept its demand view substantially lower thanthe IEA, at 85.37 million barrels a day. The IEA is generally among the moreoptimistic about oil demand this year compared with other industry forecasters.It said that "if North America’s strong preliminary estimates areconfirmed," oil demand in the Organization for Economic Cooperation andDevelopment "could briefly buck the decline observed in the previous fouryears."

Richest Man in the World Says USGovernment Should Spent Three Times More In Taxpayer Money to Fund EnergyResearch He Deems Worthwhile. NYTimes (6/9) reports, "The United States is badly lagging in basic researchon new forms of energy, deepening the nation’s dependence on dirty fuels andcrippling its international competitiveness, a diverse group of businessexecutives warn in a study to be released Thursday.  The group, which includes Bill Gates, the co-founder ofMicrosoft; Jeffrey R. Immelt, chief executive of General Electric; and JohnDoerr, a top venture capitalist, urges the government to more than triplespending on energy research and development, to $16 billion a year. And itrecommends creation of a national energy board to guide investment decisionstoward radical advances in energy technology.  Mr. Gates said in an interview that drastic changes wereneeded in the way the United States produced and consumed energy to assure itssecurity and to begin to address climate change. He endorsed the administration’sgoal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050, but said thatwas not possible with today’s technology or politics.

Ashley Judd Loves Her SomeKentucky Basketball, Loves Being Seen at Rupp Arena – Just Hates EverythingAbout the State’s Coal-Based Economy.TheHill (6/9) reports, "Actress Ashley Judd said the federal government issupporting "the rape of Appalachia" because it allows mountaintop removalmining.  Judd, in a speech at theNational Press Club Wednesday, criticized the controversial practice.  Mountaintop removal mining (MTR) is aform of surface mining that involves the use of explosives on the summit orsummit ridge of a mountain to expose underlying coal seams. It’s a common formof mining in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky and West Virginia. Judd, aKentucky native, called it "strip mining on steroids" and choked up as shetalked about its environmental damage in her home state. She called for an endto the practice and singled out other politicians for criticism and praise. Shewas critical of Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), saying "his policy stance about coalmining is destructive to the people of Appalachia." Judd has worked with theNatural Resources Defense Council and other environmental groups to help endthe practice.


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