Some kind of unpredictable, chance event had to come out of nowhere to give Democrat Rep. Charlie Melancon a chance to knock off incumbent Republican Sen. David Vitter this November, given the dynamics he faced. Lo and behold, one came – except it is going to have the entirely opposite fate of sealing Melancon’s defeat far more thoroughly than any efforts regarding containment to date of the blowout well in the Gulf of Mexico.
It’s not that event but rather the doings of the Democrat Melancon endorsed for president, winner Barack Obama, attached to the disaster that has made Melancon’s task (hard to imagine) even more difficult. As if Melancon did not have enough to fight off – co-partisan with Obama and a deeply unpopular Democrat Party, his own questionable votes and actions in office, facing a slightly vulnerable but well-positioned incumbent – now Obama’s response to the Apr. 20 accident, partly conditioned by his own ineffective response and failure to manage effectively an agency whose policies and procedures were lax and lacking, is to shut down Louisiana offshore drilling and place other onerous requirements on it.
While these proclamations may be red meat thrown to the know-nothings that infest much of the environmentalist movement and act to shore up that part of the disintegrating Obama electoral coalition, this overreaction – enhanced safety measures for existing and new drilling should take at a maximum no more than a few weeks, not six months, to implement – will cost Louisiana thousands of jobs in the short term and tens of thousands over the long haul. Relevant to government, a small but significant drop in revenues will occur for the state already struggling with budget concerns, may set back by years coastal restoration efforts, and for the foreseeable future trigger a large and significant revenue reduction for local governments around the Gulf.
Oil exploration and production operates on a lengthy timeline. Decisions are made that don’t bear fruit until years later (if they do), so to make operations minimal for months in the Gulf obviously not only drastically curtails economic activity – and government revenues from it – during that time but also well into the future as companies plan around that and shift activity to other areas that thus may induce little Gulf action for the next several years. This may impede Louisiana’s coastal restoration efforts since the federal law that begins to divert what was federal royalty money, especially that of new discoveries, to state coffers for preservation efforts begins in the next few years, and that activity may not be there as a result of this Obama order.
So now all of this gets hung around Melancon’s neck. Even though Melancon as a legislator has been more friendly than not to the oil industry, he cannot escape the fact that it is his guy that is doing this to Louisiana’s people, and his party that he helps keep in legislative power has been supporting measures like this even before the crisis. The blowback may be farther – Democrat present and potential candidates for the Third Congressional District, already considered underdogs, will suffer as this is the epicenter of the industry in the state, and even next year Democrats running for state offices around the coast may suffer.
But Melancon will feel it the worst. Running a campaign that, at best, has been on life support from the beginning, this is the last thing he needs, because it is the last thing the people of Louisiana need, being sacrificed on the altar of environmental correctness.