Examiner Editorial: Stopping progress, not stopping the spill 

Sixty-one days have passed since the blowout at Deepwater Horizon, and as the spill worsens, so does the political gamesmanship and government-led bungling of the recovery effort. Take President Barack Obama’s proposed six-month moratorium — not only for new deepwater drilling permits, but for all existing drilling. The White House justified the proposal on the basis of a report produced by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, which touted the peer review of seven experts identified by the National Association of Engineering. The only problem? The report they reviewed did not include such a moratorium on existing drilling and, as the Wall Street Journal reported, the experts fear the decision would set the stage for greater environmental and economic calamity.

Instead, the White House claims the experts were only brought in to look at the document on a technical basis, and that the moratorium was a more “comprehensive” approach. Obama’s environmental czar Carol Browner declared “No one’s been deceived or misrepresented.” Salazar has since testified that the idea to impose the moratorium was his. That would make this an explicitly political decision rather than a technical one, and given the subject matter, a dangerous one.

According to one of the experts, BP was in the midst of abandoning its well at the time the blowout occurred. Deepwater oil rigs don’t turn on and off like light switches. Stopping a drilling job requires a lot of planning and risk. Needlessly abandoning those that are working safely increases, rather than decreases, the threat to the environment. Stopping drilling, however, makes Obama look tougher on industry.

But stopping threats seems to be last on Obama’s list of priorities. Republican Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal had fought to get barges capable of vacuuming up crude oil out in the Gulf. Sixteen barges sat idle for a day on Wednesday, though they had previously been out in the water and doing effective clean-up work. The Coast Guard sent all the ships back to port, citing petty reasons such as the need to confirm the ships were equipped with life vests and fire extinguishers. Jindal told ABC News that “every time you talk to someone different at the Coast Guard, you get a different answer.” Twenty-four hours of clean-up were lost. Perhaps the White House should focus its efforts on helping the states most affected than playing parlor tricks with political decisions.

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