Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) said he supports Sen. Mary Landrieu’s (D-LA) decision to block the nomination of Jack Lew for director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) until the moratorium on deepwater oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico has been lifted or significantly modified.

“I support the hold on Jack Lew until the administration understands the pain its moratorium is causing folks along the Gulf Coast. Unfortunately, sometimes holds are needed to get this administration to focus, much as my hold on FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] nominee Craig Fugate forced a resolution to the flood zone issue,” Vitter said.

In announcing her hold last week, Landrieu said she believed Lew “lacked sufficient concern” for the economic challenges facing the Gulf Coast following the massive oil spill off the southern coast of Louisiana (see Daily GPI, Sept. 24).

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 less) 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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