Lifting the Deepwater Moratorium: Loss of Life Takes Backseat

Yesterday a federal judge in New Orleans refused to stay his order lifting a 6 month drilling ban on deepwater drilling that he issued on Tuesday.  Martin C. Feldman, a Reagan appointee and long term resident of New Orleans, Feldman said the moratorium caused "irreparable
harm" to the businesses in the gulf that depend on drilling activity
and that the President had not given sufficient basis for the pause in drilling.  The decision was met with cheers from the industry and the politicians it had purchased.

In his 22-page order Feldman gave passing reference, in a footnote, to the deaths of the 11 on the Deepwater Horizon and the vast destruction of wildlife and eco-systems caused by the spill.  He also trivialized the the loss of generations-long fishing and seafood businesses caused by this disaster.  In his order, he was concerned about the government's generalizing the massive failure of the Horizon's safety systems to all deepwater rigs, asserting that the ban should be rig-specific, ignoring the fact that all deepwater rigs use virtually identical technology that just failed so catastrophically.  The Interior Department has pledged to rewrite the moratorium order to answer Fedlman's assertions, also appealling the stay that he issued.

I am acutely aware of the economic concerns of businesses and people who work in the deepwater.  But I am just as concerned about the 11 deaths, the vast destruction to the economies of 4 Gulf states, deaths of untold wildlife, and the massive losses of those who depend on the Gulf for their livelihoods.  The lives are irreplaceable.  How much are the costs?  $40 billion?  $50 billion?  Maybe even $100 billion?  We can't ignore those losses while focusing solely on a short term loss of a specific business segment.

When I was with NBC at the Deepwater Horizon site earlier this week, we met with a Coast Guard boat captain who had boarded us to guide us for an up-close look at the well control operations.   When we met with him for a briefing, he learned from Kerry Sanders that I was "oil field".  After our meeting, he pulled me aside and asked me to tell everyone that the workers out there are very aware and respectful that they are working over a gravesite, and that they feel alone out there, 50 miles offshore.  They watch coverage about the oiled shoreline, dead wildlife, the ruined seafood businesses, and Tony Hayward's latest gaffe, while worrying about their own families and homes who are just as threatened.  He said that these people, good people, are doing everything they can to stop this monster, and for us to remember them.  I, for one, DO remember them every day, and will fight for their safety so this never happens again. 

I understand the painful economic realities of a pause in deepwater drilling, but I am personally unwilling to support the risk of human lives and the environment for money.  BP should pay for this pause while the industry, with government oversight, cleans up their mess and rethinks just how we do all this.