Louisiana Looks to President Obama for Economic Relief

A brown pelican covered in oil sits on the beach at East Grand Terre Island along the Louisiana coast on Thursday, June 3, 2010.
AP/Charlie Riedel

As President Obama heads for Louisiana for his second visit to the Gulf in eight days, the editors of the local paper are asking some hard questions. In an editorial today, The Times-Picayune editors expressed concern about the economic impact on the state from the spill and the moratorium on deep water oil exploration. 

"We're already reeling from the loss of thousands of fishing industry jobs," The Times-Picayune editors wrote. "We now could see an estimated 20,000 oil-services jobs vanish due to your six-month federal moratorium on deepwater exploratory drilling. That could do even greater damage to the economy than the well-chronicled fishing industry losses."  

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal sent a letter to President Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar titled, "The Severe Impacts of Moratorium on Deepwater Drilling."

I am writing to express my grave concerns regarding the severe economic impact of a six-month (or longer) suspension of activity at 33 previously permitted deepwater drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, including and in particular the 22 deepwater drilling rigs currently in operation off the Louisiana coast.  

Already, Louisiana has suffered severe negative economic and ecological impacts from the BP oil spill. Our seafood industry is experiencing huge economic losses that have only been partially mitigated by a frustratingly slow and inadequate BP claims process. Moreover, our precious wetlands are suffering incalculable, permanent damages, while our tourism industry faces escalating losses.  

During one of the most challenging economic periods in decades, the last thing we need is to enact public policies that will certainly destroy thousands of existing jobs while preventing the creation of thousands more. 

The newspaper asked why the government needs six months to access what went wrong with the Deepwater Horizon rig and come up with new safety guidelines. The editors said that the Coast Guard and the Minerals Management Service have weighed in with analysis, and numerous hearings in Washington related to the oil spill-related have surfaced issues with deep-ocean drilling. And, a presidential commission has been assembled to investigate the spill, hold public hearings and offer recommendations for the oil drilling industry.

After 46 days of oil spewing and attempts to stop the flow, there is enough blame spread around and obvious safety measures that can be applied to avoid a repeat of the BP spill. 

The best advice on how to avoid future deep-water oil disasters so for didn't come from a scientist or presidential commission.  In his New York Times commentary Herbert wrote, "If a bank is too big to fail, it's way too big to exist. If an oil well is too far beneath the sea to be plugged when something goes wrong, it's too deep to be drilled in the first place."

BP CEO Tony Hayward seems to agree with Herbert  an op-ed he wrote that appeared in the Wall Street Journal: "It is clear that our industry should be better prepared to address deep sea accidents of this type and magnitude."  

Hayward continued, "We remain in uncharted territory--none of these approaches has ever been attempted in water a mile deep, where the extreme cold and the intense pressures require experts to carefully adapt proven techniques."   

It's important to explore uncharted waters, but it's equally important to be prepared when things go badly, whether in deep space or subsea space. BP went about its work like a fledgling trapeze artist without a net. 

As a result, the Gulf coast states have an increasingly ravaged coastline and economic dilemma, with thousands of oil services jobs in jeopardy.

Like the pelicans caught in the spill, the people in Louisiana are covered in oil. The toll in their case is their livelihoods, and they will ask a "furious"  Mr. Obama today what he plans to do to solve their dilemma.

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  • Dan Farber On Twitter»

    Dan has more than 20 years of journalism experience. He has served as editor in chief of CBSNews.com, CNET News, ZDNet, PC Week, and MacWeek.

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