Senator David Vitter (R-La.) has added another front to the already lengthy list of battles between the White House and the 112th Congress. In protest to the Interior Department's foot-dragging in issuing new oil drilling permits, Sen. Vitter has started to put "holds" upon the President's nominees
to various Departmental and sub-agency positions.
In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon spill in May of 2010, the Obama administration extended a moratorium
on new deepwater offshore drilling permits. One month later, a New Orleans federal judge struck down the moratorium
as baseless and in violation of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act; the judge further agreed with the plaintiffs that such a moratorium would inflict undo harm upon the oil industry and its infrastructure.
President Obama's administration has essentially ignored this decision ever since, even to the point of being declared "in contempt"
by U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman earlier this month. Judge Feldman wrote that "each step the government took following the court’s imposition of a preliminary injunction showcases its defiance."
The detrimental effects of this defiance are already manifest: Seahawk Drilling, a major Texas-based oil company active in the Gulf, has been sold under Chapter 11
. The company suffered enormously from the administration's current anti-oil crusade.
Sen. Vitter has been forced to respond by throwing a wrench into the President's nomination process. So far, he has blocked Scott Doney's nomination as head scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and plans to do the same for Dan Ashe, the White House pick to lead the Fish and Wildlife Service. Such delays are unfortunate but necessary: Sen. Vitter is correct in saying that "the Interior Department has destroyed jobs in Louisiana, contributing to the bankruptcy of at least one major employer, and is breaching contracts with other employers and putting taxpayers on the hook for billions of dollars."
We can only hope that Sen. Vitter's efforts will remind President Obama and his Interior Department allies that there are consequences to ignoring the law and scuttling American energy.