Despite fears of how President Obama’s moratorium on deepwater drilling will devastate the Gulf Coast economy, the Administration’s lawyers claim that the damage to the economy must be disregarded:  Protecting the environment is the only issue that matters.

Although the courts have lifted the moratorium, the fears that it will be reinstated are suppressing any new deepwater drilling, with or without the moratorium.

Appearing before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, lawyers for the State of Louisiana argued (PDF), “Should the Court extend the drilling moratorium for even a day longer, the State’s economic problems will only get worse, effectively turning an environmental disaster into an economic catastrophe for the State.”  Also, “Each day it is in place, millions of dollars of income are lost to the citizens of Louisiana, and by the State.”

As the state told the court in its brief, “The offshore oil and gas industry, operating in the Gulf of Mexico outside of the territorial boundaries of Louisiana, has a tremendous economic impact on the State, estimated to be approximately $3 billion per year. This comes not only from salaries and wages of workers on the rigs, but also from the myriad of Louisiana companies doing business with the offshore industry, including contract employment companies, boat companies, tool rental companies, equipment servicing companies, and offshore food service companies, among many others.  Because of the pervasiveness of the oil and gas industry in Louisiana, the entire economy is affected, from grocery stores and restaurants to banks and schools.”

How did the federal government respond?  By saying the economic ruin to thousands of Americans just doesn’t matter.

That’s no exaggeration.  At last week’s hearing before the appellate court, the lawyer for the Interior Department repeated several times that any damage to the environment automatically trumps any damage to the economy that occurs by overzealous protectionism.  We have assembled the audio excerpts posted above of those multiple mentions by Justice Department lawyer Michael Gray.

To President Obama, it may suffice to say that people can go on unemployment if they lose their jobs because of his drilling moratorium, but most people prefer to work, not collect unemployment.

Our Live from the Gulf series is brought to you by our team of energy, environment, homeland security and response experts:

James Carafano: Deputy Director, The Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies and Director, Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies
Jack Spencer: Policy Director, Energy and Environment, Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies
Nick Loris: Research Assistant, Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies
Rory Cooper: Director of Strategic Communications