Sen. Mary Landrieu’s (D-LA) pledge to continue her hold on the nomination of Jack Lew to be director of the Office of Management and Budget, despite the administration’s decision to lift the moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, came under further attack from the White House Tuesday (see Daily GPI, Sept. 24).

Landrieu called the removal of the moratorium a “good start,” but said she would maintain her hold on Lew until she sees how the Obama administration is handling the issuing of permits and whether drilling activity resumes in both shallow and deep waters.

“We have said from the beginning that the hold [on Lew] was unwarranted and outrageous,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs during a press briefing Tuesday. “That continues to be our viewpoint, and we hope that as we work through the normal course of a policy that ensures that oil drilling is done in a safe way, certainly that Sen. Landrieu would judge Jack Lew on the merits of being a budget director, not [on]…issues that are ancillary to what he does.

“Our feeling on this is the nomination of Jack Lew is not in any way connected to and shouldn’t be in any way connected to any facet of the moratorium. Jack didn’t have anything to do with issuing the moratorium,” Gibbs noted.

He further agreed with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Michael Norwich, director of the Bureau of Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, who said Gulf drilling will not begin soon despite the lifting of the moratorium. “In terms of how quickly, I think Director Norwich and others have said some of this is going to depend on the quality of the permit applications themselves. This is obviously not going to happen overnight. It’s probably going to take several weeks to ensure that everybody feels comfortable that we have the appropriate plans in place to ensure that we meet those worst-case scenarios,” he said.

Gibbs dismissed arguments that the heavy regulatory burden is going to chase away smaller producers from the Gulf of Mexico.

Landrieu imposed her hold on Lew in September. Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) expressed supported for Landrieu’s stand on the moratorium (see Daily GPI, Sept. 29). In announcing her procedural hold, 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.

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