Democratic candidates are already dead in the water in Louisiana, so I wouldn’t term this an October surprise. But Robert Gibbs told reporters today that the Administration would lift their moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico soon, possibly by the end of the week.
The moratorium was never meant to be an outright ban on deepwater drilling, from the Administration’s perspective. They sought to put a hold on the process until better safety and accountability measures could be written and put into place. Originally this was expected to last until the end of November, but clearly the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which has the federal oversight responsibility, feels they have enough confidence in the new rules to allow drillers to return to the waters.
Many of those new rules have already been announced, and they would place slightly more costs on platform operators, around 2% for deepwater drilling and 1% for shallow-water drilling. Surely we’ll hear that this “excessive” regulatory burden is driving the whole industry to go Galt, and we should give up on overseeing the cementing, casing, drilling fluid and blowout preventers because the good people bringing up oil from the Gulf can do it themselves.
Mary Landrieu would probably be roused to lift her hold on OMB nominee Jack Lew if the moratorium did expire this week.
UPDATE: Apparently that moratorium will be lifted today, according to Rep. Charlie Melancon (a Democrat now running for Senate in Louisiana).
UPDATE II: And Mary Landrieu still won’t lift her hold. Apparently the White House needs to say sorry, or something.