Op-Ed The Hill
The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was a tragedy for eleven families, and an environmental disaster for the entire Gulf Coast region. The impacts are far-reaching, affecting industries across the spectrum. Make no mistake, BP has the ultimate responsibility to clean up the disaster in the Gulf and needs to make things right with those affected by this spill. I fully support all efforts to ensure they fairly compensate the industries and region that have been impacted by this disaster.
In addition to the initial effects of this disaster, a second disaster has fallen on the people of the Gulf Coast. On May 30th, President Obama placed a six month moratorium on offshore deepwater drilling, potentially killing thousands of jobs in the Houston area and thousands more along the entire coast.
The Gulf Coast states, including Texas, will suffer severe economic losses as a result of this ill-advised policy. While the President has stated that this moratorium will last six months, there is no guarantee that it wonâ€™t be extended. The US offshore industry is vital to our energy needs. It provides 30% of our oil production, is the second largest source of commercial revenue to the federal government at $6 Billion per year, and provides employment for 150,000 individuals.The Gulf Coast economy cannot afford this moratorium.
The economic impacts of this shutdown are devastating, and will not be easy to recover from even if the moratorium is lifted. There are 33 platforms in the Gulf Coast affected by the moratorium and each working platform represents between 180 to 280 jobs, with each of those positions directly supporting at least four other industry related jobs.
I have spoken directly to employers in Houston who have been contacted by operations in Australia, Brazil and other oil rich nations to move their rig operations overseas. Because of this moratorium, they are losing upwards of $1 million per day, per rig. They cannot afford to have an idle rig in the Gulf, and will be forced to take their business elsewhere. Once a rig is moved overseas, it would take a minimum of 5 years before it could come back to the Gulf - if at all.
The moratorium also impedes our goal of achieving energy independence. Our nation will end up importing more oil and gas from overseas. The suspension of our domestic energy producing sources will also cause higher energy prices at a time when Americans can ill-afford increased energy costs.
To address this job-killing policy, I introduced legislation to lift the 6-month offshore drilling moratorium. The opposition to this moratorium is shared by a bipartisan group of my colleagues who have cosponsored this legislation. Senator Vitter has introduced a companion bill in the Senate and we urge immediate action on this legislation to avoid further economic devastation to a region already suffering from this tragedy. The spill must be stopped and recovery must proceed in a thoughtful manner.