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Drilling job loss minimal, US says

La. lawmakers dispute report on gulf moratorium

By Erica Werner and Matthew Daly
Associated Press / September 17, 2010

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WASHINGTON — The deep-water drilling moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico has not increased unemployment in the region, says a new report from the Obama administration that was immediately disputed by Louisiana lawmakers.

The report, released at a Senate hearing yesterday, said the moratorium imposed after the BP oil spill might have temporarily cost 8,000 to 12,000 jobs on oil rigs and elsewhere. But it found no net job loss in the region, thanks in part to a big hiring push for cleanup crews and massive spending by BP on the recovery effort.

The scenario is far rosier than described in some earlier reports, including an Interior Department estimate over the summer that said there could be 23,000 jobs lost from the moratorium.

Senator Mary Landrieu, Democrat from Louisiana and a leading critic of the moratorium, attacked the report and said the “heavy hand of the federal government’’ was making a bad situation worse and placing thousands of jobs in the gulf at risk.

“I find it stunning that the administration was aware that their actions might eliminate nearly 23,000 jobs in an already faltering economy and proceeded anyway,’’ Landrieu said. “That decision has imperiled thousands of small businesses who are reliant on the revenue generated by the oil and gas industry.’’

Landrieu and fellow Louisiana Senator David Vitter repeatedly challenged the report’s accuracy and said it did not address what they called a de facto moratorium on shallow-water drilling.

Fewer than a dozen shallow-water drilling permits have been issued in recent months, compared with an average of 40 a month before the BP spill, they said.

Vitter, a Republican, told a Commerce Department official that the report painted a picture at odds with reality in the gulf.

“I have to tell you, I talk to these people every day,’’ he told Commerce Undersecretary Rebecca Blank at a hearing of Senate Small Business Committee.

The report’s upbeat analysis “sure as heck is not what [Gulf Coast residents] are telling me,’’ Vitter said. “Every day I hear the exact opposite.’’

The new report said other surveys, including the one by Interior, measured worst-case scenarios that never came to pass.

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