Crude Politics - WSJ.com
Yet when the final report came out, the timelines he saw had been removed, no doubt because they argued against the necessity of a six-month moratorium. Mr. Arnold adds that the Administration's decision to allow industry to continue drilling "gas injection wells"—which, he says, are no more risky than production wells—only shows the moratorium makes "no sense."
"This was a political call; this was not a technical call," says Mr. Arnold. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has since testified that the call was his. But Robert Bea, from the University of California at Berkeley, who also reviewed the report, told us Interior had sent him a letter that "stated clearly that [the moratorium] had been inserted at the request of the White House." Mr. Bea pointed out that the Department of Interior is more than equipped to target and shut down specific Gulf operations that might offer safety concerns. There was no call for a moratorium "for industry as a whole."
Ford Brett, managing director of Petroskills and also a reviewer, notes that the experts first went to the Interior Department with their concerns. "All they had to do was put out another press release—one sentence long—clarifying that we hadn't reviewed the drilling moratorium. . . .That didn't happen." Only then did the experts go public.
As for Ms. Browner's claim that no one was "misrepresented," Mr. Brett disputes that.
Several reviewers said they had, in fact, received "apology" notes from the Interior Department acknowledging the misrepresentation. "We did not mean to imply that you also agreed with the decision to impose a moratorium on all new deepwater drilling," read one.
All of this matters because it offers proof the moratorium was driven by politics, not safety. The drilling ban was not reviewed by experts, and was not necessary to satisfy most of the safety recommendations in Mr. Salazar's report. It was authored by political actors so Mr. Obama could look tough. A cynic might argue the ban was only added after review precisely because the Administration knew experts would refuse to endorse it.
A big reason why those experts would have balked is because they recognize that the moratorium is indeed a threat to safety
. Mr. Arnold offers at least four reasons why.
The ban requires oil companies to abandon uncompleted wells. The process of discontinuing a well, and then later re-entering it, introduces unnecessary risk. He notes BP was in the process of abandoning its well when the blowout happened.