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Obama’s loss is a victory for common sense Tuesday’s ruling by a federal judge in New Orleans against President Obama’s six-month moratorium on deep-water oil-drilling in the Gulf of Mexico was a victory for common sense and, if upheld, would preclude the disastrous economic fallout for our neighbors in the Gulf region that the moratorium would bring. U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman agreed with the plaintiffs (several companies that ferry people and supplies to offshore drilling rigs) that the moratorium was arbitrarily imposed by Obama in the wake of the April 20 blowout on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, which since then has spewed an estimated 100 million gallons or more of oil into the Gulf. ”What seems clear is that the federal government has been pressed by what happened on the Deepwater Horizon into an otherwise sweeping confirmation that all Gulf deepwater drilling activities put us all in a universal threat of irreparable harm,” the judge wrote. Unfortunately, the White House promised an immediate appeal of the decision, which had halted approval of new permits for deepwater drilling and had suspended drilling on nearly three dozen exploratory wells in the Gulf. The White House argued that drilling at such great depths does not make sense. That is true – although not for the reasons it cites. Rather, it makes no sense for us to be forced to drill at depths where, when disaster strikes, there is next to nothing that can be done about it. Had the blowout happened on land or just offshore, it would have been capped within days and the damage minimized. But ever-tighter environmental regulations over recent decades, although generally well-intentioned, have pushed oil exploration into ever more risky areas of the globe, and at greater cost to the companies and consumers. As for the moratorium, it halted work on 33 deep-water rigs, costing the companies the $250,000 to $500,000 a day the rigs typically lease for. Rather than let equipment sit idle, owners were likely to look for drilling jobs in other parts of the world, and it might have been years before they return to the Gulf, if ever. Each rig generates 800 to 1,400 jobs. In Louisiana alone, the monthly payroll from oilrigs is $165 million. If the moratorium is reimposed and the rigs left for other jobs, only a relative handful of the crew would go with them. The work force would be filled by local hires from wherever the rig winds up. Each job on the rig supports four support jobs, and those would dry up. In short, Obama’s moratorium would have outsourced tens of thousands of good-paying U.S. jobs to other countries. As Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour aptly put it: “The spill is a terrible thing, but the moratorium is a terrible thing that is not only bad for the region, it’s bad for America.” The fact is that drilling is largely proven technology and that the BP blowout was a rare and unfortunate exception to the over 42,000 wells that have been drilled in the Gulf. And Obama’s moratorium penalized the careful, law-abiding companies for the sloppiness of one. Though the moratorium has been lifted, at least momentarily, the resumption of drilling should be accompanied by thorough federal inspections. But the best incentive to careful and safe drilling is the terrible financial and public relations beating BP is taking.

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