Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Death of a Hoax: Moratorium job losses under 400. Holding Hoaxsters Accountable?

The hoax perpetrated on south Louisiana and the nation — that the six-month moratorium on deep water drilling would wreck our economy and send thousands of workers into unemployment lines — was fully and totally exposed this week.

The death of the hoax was not delivered by Democrats. Instead, the crushing blows arrived via the truth delivered a non-profit and by the Louisiana Workforce Commission through the pages of the Times-Picayune and The Advocate.

After months of relentless propaganda about the supposedly catastrophic impact of the Obama administration's six-month moratorium on deep water drilling, the truth turns out to be this: nearly four months into the moratorium, fewer than 400 jobs have been lost to because of it.

The Times-Picayune reported on Tuesday that the Baton Rouge Area Foundation (BRAF), the organization charged with administering a $100 million fund the federal government had BP set up for workers displaced by the moratorium, had received just 160 requests for funds. By the end of the day Tuesday, that number was up to 220, according to The Advocate.

The Times-Picayune also reported that the Louisiana Workforce Commission said that it has paid unemployment claims to 347 Louisiana residents who have named the moratorium as the reason they're out of work.

The Advocate got unemployment figures for both the BP Gulf Gusher and the moratorium from the LWC:
At the Louisiana Workforce Commission, spokeswoman Lynn Dias-Button said Tuesday that unemployment claims since early May do not reflect the massive numbers that BRAF had expected.

Thus far, 1,656 claimants have stated that they became unemployed because of BP’s oil leak, said Dias-Button. And only 832 of those people have been ruled eligible for benefits.

Since early June, Dias-Button said, unemployment applicants also have been asked whether the moratorium cost them their jobs.

“We have had 724 individuals who have … said they lost their jobs because of the drilling moratorium,” Dias-Button noted.

So far, she said, “We have determined that 347 are eligible for benefits.”
Industry spokespeople were ready with explanations, but the fact remains that the moratorium on deep water drilling has had little or no economic impact on south Louisiana. But, after a summer of misleading statements about the impact of the moratorium, what credibility does the industry have to speak on the moratorium now?

It its weekly report on new unemployment claims last Friday, the LWC reported new unemployment claims were down again, continuing a trend that has been in place for most of the summer.

The New Gulf Reality Sets In

On Monday, Michael Bromwich, the man running the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (successor to the corrupt Mineral Management Service), held a hearing on the moratorium in Lafayette.

According to The Daily Advertiser, at forums along the Gulf coast, California and Alaska, Bromwich heard nearly 100 presentations from 61 representatives of industry, academia and environmental groups, plus 37 public officials. Information gathered at the forums will be contained in a report due Oct. 31 to Salazar as he considers whether it is safe to resume deep water drilling.

Bromwich confronted head-on criticism of the moratorium by explaining its necessity:
Drilling and workplace safety, containment capabilities and spill response capabilities.

If a second spill had occurred while oil was still leaking from the Deepwater Horizon, there would have been insufficient equipment to respond to it, he said.
Interim Lt. Governor Scott Angelle testified at the hearing, decrying the fact that federal officials had not fallen for the 'moratorium-as-economic-disaster' hoax that he played such a prominent role in trying to perpetrate.

"We can't help but believe that our repeated suggestions and other experts suggestions continue to be ignored about lifting this moratorium," Angelle was quoted as saying.

The federal government did not respond to Angelle's repeated exaggerations about the impact of the moratorium nor his allegations that President Obama is biased against the oil and gas industry, nor his taunts of the President waging war against Louisiana families. So, for Angelle's sake, it's probably best to call it a wash.

Bromwich made clear that the days of the industry calling the tune in the Gulf of Mexico are over, that the new safety rules are necessary in the wake of the culture of corruption that had come to typify the relations between the industry and MMS in the Gulf. He said the new rules took time to formulate and time to implement, and that the permitting process will improve as the system becomes fully operations.

In a similar hearing in Biloxi the previous week, Bromwich made clear that the drilling in the Gulf will resume when industry complies with the new rules.

That the fight is out of the anti-moratorium forces was demonstrated by a speaker at the Biloxi hearing. According to the Associated Press, Gary Rook, technical director for Edison Chouest Offshore, said that more than four months after the rig explosion, concerns remain about the ability of the industry to respond to another disaster.

What makes this interesting is that Edison Chouest and its affiliated companies were at the vanguard of the legal fight to overturn the moratorium. Chouest companies were among the first to warn of dire economic impacts the moratorium would have on south Louisiana and the Gulf Coast.

Holding Accountable

With the evidence of the hoax mounting and the support for it collapsing, the next question becomes one of what should happen to those who perpetrated this hoax?

The 12,000 or so people who attended the Rally for Economic Survival in Lafayette were victims of this hoax. The hoax was essential to the ability of rally supporters to get that many people to show up. The cooked numbers on the potential impact coming from supposedly reliable sources figured prominently in Judge Feldman's ruling against the moratorium. They figured prominently in the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce's drive to make the rally a matter of community unity and pride.

Those numbers completely bamboozled the mainstream media in Lafayette and across the state — from the Times-Picayune to Gannett to The Advocate, as well as local television and radio stations. Many of these outlets not only supported calls to end the moratorium, they also abandoned critical thinking in assessing the claims made by those opposing the moratorium.

Finally, Governor Bobby Jindal's role in this matter must by officially examined.

The Governor put Scott Angelle on the task of whipping public opposition against the moratorium, but Jindal was acting to defend his deep-pocketed backers in the oil service sector, starting with Gary Chouest and Donald Bollinger. Jindal was rallying for his political survival before the economic case could be cooked up.

The governor ordered the state to intervene in the the court hearings over the moratorium, filing an amicus brief on June 20. In that brief, the state claimed unequivocally:
Because of the moratorium, many thousands of Louisiana workers have lost their employment and many more are at risk of losing it in the near future."
Those "many thousands of Louisiana workers" have never shown up anywhere other than the Jindal's amicus brief and in the now discredited claims of those who used the fear of those job losses to fan opposition to the moratorium, the President and to Democrats.

Former Insurance Commissioner Jim Brown went to prison for allegedly lying to an FBI agent in an interview, yet the agent never had to present any proof of the alleged lie in court. Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was recently convicted on a single count of lying to federal agents.

Can the Governor of Louisiana order his attorneys to lie to a federal judge in writing through brief filed in a court with impunity?

Where did that jobs loss claim come from? It certainly appeared to figure prominently in Judge Feldman's ruling against the moratorium. That lie is a central thread in the entire hoax. It first appeared publicly in Jindal's brief.

Someone needs to discover its origins.

The road to accountability begins with piercing the Governor's bubble of secrecy.

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