Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) Thursday announced that she will block the nomination of Jack Lew to be director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) until the moratorium on deepwater oil and natural gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico has been lifted or significantly modified.

"Although Mr. Lew clearly possesses the expertise necessary to serve as one of the president's most important economic advisers, I found that he lacked sufficient concern for the host of economic challenges confronting the Gulf Coast" following the massive oil spill off the southern coast of Louisiana, Landrieu wrote in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).

Despite being struck down in federal court several times, the Obama administration's six-month ban on deepwater drilling -- which initially went into effect in late May -- remains in force (see Daily GPI, Sept. 2). Although not officially subject to the ban, drilling in the Gulf shallow waters (500 feet or below) has been brought to a standstill as well (see Daily GPI, July 26).

Before the explosion aboard BP plc-leased Deepwater Horizon rig and the imposition of the drilling ban, the Minerals Management Service, the predecessor to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEM), approved an average of three to six shallow-water permits per week, or 12 to 24 permits on average per month, according to Landrieu. Since May, the BOEM has only issued five shallow-water permits for new wells.

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