U.S. Congressman Mike Pence, Chairman of the American Energy Solutions Group, led a Congressional delegation that visited sites affected by the Gulf oil spill on Tuesday. Following the visit, Congressman Pence wrote the blog entry below on his website: "Mr. President, Lift The Moratorium Immediately".
Today, I led a delegation of Republican Members of Congress to New Orleans to see firsthand the impact of the BP oil spill, the status of the clean-up and the state of the economy in the region. Our meetings included BP's Chief Operating Officer; a parish president named Billy Nungesser and local small business owners, fishermen and academics. Then we took a 100-mile flight to the source of the spill.
As we flew to the site, we only observed one oil slick. Department of Homeland Security officials told us that just weeks before, our flight plan would've revealed a layer of oil "as far as the eye could see," but today there is almost no sign of oil. Apparently, the combination of significant use of dispersants (which were delayed three weeks by administration officials), skimming and surface burns appear to have finally mitigated the impact of the spill after more than 100 days. Flying over the site of the BP spill, I observed a skyline of oil platforms and ships performing a "static kill" of the well and just weeks away from a permanent end to the spill with a relief well. Again, even at the source, there was no detectable oil on the surface. As one fisherman told me, "Apparently, we're blessed." But that cannot be said for the local economy.
For the people of this region, the future is much less hopeful, not because of the spill, but because of the Obama Administration's moratorium on deep water drilling. After a slow response by the administration that saw 10 days pass before senior officials were even sent to the Gulf and weeks before the President even called the CEO of BP, it appears that the environmental threat to the region is beginning to abate. But the economic threat of the moratorium hangs over this region like a sword. As one business leader said, "people in the oil industry are busy now with the clean-up, but it’s all about to fall off a cliff." He was referring to that day when the clean-up ends and the Obama Administration's moratorium on deep water drilling continues. Deep water drilling isn't merely a part of the region's economy; we learned it really is where many of the jobs are today and where the future of oil exploration, either in our waters or somewhere else in the world, is headed. According to a study presented to us by Dr. Joseph Mason, an LSU economist, the arbitrary six-month moratorium imposed by the Obama Administration will cost the region more than 8,000 jobs. For every one job on a rig, there are several more ancillary jobs on shore. And beyond the 33 rigs that were shut down, we were told another eight new oil rigs that were moving to the region were idled. Jobs are literally sailing away from the Gulf. But oil industry jobs are not the whole story. A small business owner told us that she and her 14 employees supported at least 40 other businesses that would be threatened if this owner’s business went away. According to Dr. Mason, only 25 percent of the 8,000 jobs lost in the first six months would come from the industry. The rest would be like those suppliers the small business owner mentioned. The ripple effects of the moratorium are almost incalculable.
As we flew back to the mainland, and I saw the miles of boom and the array of clean-up efforts winding down on the shore of Grand Isle, my heart went out to the people of New Orleans and the entire Gulf. The people of the Gulf have suffered enough. Let's finish the clean-up. Let's find out what happened and hold BP fully responsible for the impact. Let's find out why the federal response was so slow and work to improve it in the future. Let's take reasonable measures to improve safety and accountability. But let's let these people get back to work. For America, for the people of this hard hit coast, for heaven’s sake, Mr. President, lift the moratorium immediately.