Washington (CNN) - Saying it was an essential safety measure in the wake of the disastrous Gulf oil spill, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs defended the Obama administration's six-month moratorium on deepwater oil and gas drilling following the President's Oval Office address Tuesday.
"The president told us that because we don't know what caused this accident, we can't afford to continue drilling those 33 [deepwater] wells without knowing what happened. The president didn't feel comfortable with that," he said.
Gibbs was responding to a question previously submitted to the White House online.
Critics have argued that the six-month moratorium will hinder economic recovery in a region that is largely dependent on the oil industry.
"In Louisiana, that's caused some economic pain, and the president understands that," Gibbs acknowledged. "But at the same time, we can't take BP's word for it that they have safety procedures in place to make sure that what happened 57 and 58 days ago doesn't repeat itself."
Obama instituted the moratorium after reviewing a report from the Department of Interior 30 days after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, Gibbs said. The ban halted all drilling in more than 500 feet of water and prevents new permits from being issued.