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The Pollyannas of Offshore Drilling

President Obama’s call to expand offshore drilling just a few weeks before the Deepwater Horizon calamity — a call intended to rally Republicans behind a climate bill — will likely be remembered as one of the most poorly timed concessions to the opposing party in White House history.

But Obama isn’t the only policymaker with egg on his face. The BP disaster has caused onetime drilling proponents like GOP Govs. Charlie Crist (Fla.) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (Calif.) to rethink the wisdom of those policies. And, as Mother Jones’ Josh Harkinson notes this week, Louisiana GOP Gov. Bobby Jindal — who’s been nothing but critical of the federal response as BP’s oil creeps onto his beaches — has been on the front lines of the push to allow states to expand the drilling off of their shores.

In February, 2006, while serving as a member of the GOP-controlled US House of Representatives, Jindal introduced the Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act. Passed by the House a few months later, the bill would have opened up the entire US coast to offshore oil drilling. States could override the law and ban rigs in their territorial waters, yet the law would let them share lease royalties with the federal government — a strong incentive to drill. Adjacent states would have little say in the matter (clearly a problem, given that BP’s spill has marred several states’ coastlines).

Jindal’s bill, Harkinson adds, even included language specifically downplaying the risks associated with offshore drilling:

(4) it is not reasonably foreseeable that . . . development and production of an oil discovery located more than 50 miles seaward of the coastline will adversely affect resources near the coastline;

And it’s worth noting that the Louisiana governor — who’s been screaming from the rafters for federal help since the crisis began — also foresaw little role for Washington in his drilling expansion plans. Harkinson again:

As Jindal was pushing to radically increase offshore oil drilling (while accepting more than $100,000 from oil and gas companies), there’s no indication that he saw the slightest need to increase government oversight. His stated governing philosophy is deeply anti-regulatory. In March, 2009, he said: “There has never been a challenge that the American people, with as little interference as possible by the federal government, cannot handle.”

Except the recent spill.

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