Gulf is hurting, raise isn’t earned

Published 12:01 am Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Louisianians know that to get a pay raise usually means you’re doing a good job at work. Well, the opposite almost happened recently with the head of the agency in charge of issuing offshore drilling permits.

The Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, with the help of Sen. Harry Reid, was asking Congress to approve a nearly $20,000 per year pay raise. Given the completely unsatisfactory pace of the issuance of new deepwater exploratory permits in the Gulf, I blocked his pay raise.

My blocking of Salazar’s pay raise really struck a nerve with the Obama administration and Harry Reid. But I’m certainly not backing down. The fact is that their polices and the department’s mismanagement of permits is causing more Gulf energy workers literally to lose their jobs every day.

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The current pace of permitting is abysmal by any reasonable measure, whether based on the historical pace, the unemployment rate along the Gulf, $4/gallon gasoline, or the President’s claims to support domestic energy production.

In a moment of clarity and honesty, BOEMRE Director Michael Bromwich recently testified before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that of the 14 deepwater permits to drill issued since the BP disaster, only one was for a truly new well.

The other deepwater exploratory permits are actually reissuances — they had been issued prior to the moratorium and were then revoked.

Obviously, this one permit over the last three months since deepwater permitting was reinitiated is a pace well below the six per month issued prior to the moratorium.

Accordingly, I told Salazar that when the rate of permits issued for new deepwater exploratory wells reaches pre-moratorium levels — 6 per month — I would end my efforts to block his salary increase. He consequently called on Harry Reid to withdraw his pay raise.

Although I’m certainly glad the secretary dropped his push for a pay raise, it was truly offensive to Gulf energy workers who are struggling under his policies. Now I hope he starts earning what he already makes and properly issues new permits for much needed drilling in the Gulf.

And just as Salazar once bragged about keeping his “boot on the neck” of BP, I’ll keep my “boot on the neck” of the Interior Department until they start issuing more permits.

I am interested in hearing your thoughts on how we can help more Louisiana families prepare for hurricane season.

Please contact me with your ideas at any of my state offices or in my Washington office by mail at U.S. Senator David Vitter, U.S. Senate, 516 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510, or by phone at 202-224-4623.

You can also reach me on the web at

Sen. David Vitter is a Republian representing Louisiana in the U.S. Senate.