In national publications like The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Politico, and my local Louisiana paper, I continue to read about the thousands of jobs and billions in economic activity bleeding from the Gulf region. The recently lifted ‘official’ moratorium and the continued stoppage in offshore oil and gas production—the result of a permitting process that is purposefully restrictive—seems to have a broad effect. But these numbers are so incomprehensibly large and arbitrary that they have lost most of their meaning. The number that I am most concerned with is much more straightforward: 50 percent. That figure represents the decline in business I have experienced as the result of far-reaching and economically destructive policies that continue to spill out of Washington long after BP’s well was capped.
To small companies like mine that rely heavily on oil and gas industry demand to fill work orders, which allows job growth here in Louisiana, there are only two relevant periods of business: pre-moratorium and post-moratorium (and this is coming from a state that has had to contend with Katrina and its aftermath!). Pre-moratorium represents a period of growth, potential, and optimism. Post-moratorium is a much darker period of lay-offs, stress, and sleepless nights for my wife and me. Next week, the symbol representing the start of this Dark Age will be the main focus of an Oil Spill Commission panel hearing in Washington D.C. focused on assigning blame for the Deepwater Horizon explosion.
While it is very important to reveal the technical flaws that caused this incident in order to hold the responsible parties accountable, for industry insiders the cause is clear. BP’s reputation has long been the subject of safety concerns by energy industry participants in Louisiana and across the Gulf states. From their horrible track record as a safety outlier in Texas, where a refinery explosion killed 17 employees and injured 170 others, to their complete disregard for safety rules, leading to 800 “willful and egregious” safety violations cited by OSHA, they are the exception in the industry, not the rule. What’s not clear is why I and others are being punished for another’s mistakes.
That is why I am heading to D.C. next week when, Washington’s attention will once again focus on the Gulf. I intend to let the commission and anyone else who will listen to my story know what real Americans are experiencing as a result of the oil spill and the permanent moratorium that has followed it.
As the President’s Oil Spill Commission wraps up its investigation of the spill, and as lawmakers begin to consider a proper response, hopefully they will start to turn their attention back to those who have done things right and who have worked so hard to meet America’s energy demands right here at home. I, for one, look forward to seeing the end of this nightmare.