Oil drilling is returning to the Gulf of Mexico, but slowly.
One year after BP’s Macondo well blew out — claiming 11 lives and sparking a ban on deepwater drilling — 11 new deepwater and 49 shallow water drilling permits have been issued, according to the federal agency that oversees offshore drilling.
That’s far less than usual. But given that most of these new permits have come in the last few months, it’s a welcome sign for many in the industry who feared for their livelihoods.
According to published reports, Louisiana, which accounts for most of the Gulf’s oil workers, has 320,000 people either directly or indirectly employed in the oil and gas industry.
When the moratorium took effect last summer, many of those jobs were on the line.
Five of the 33 deepwater drill rigs did end up leaving the Gulf. But most workers managed to hang onto their jobs, because the industry redeployed them to focus on maintenance work.
The government had stopped granting permits to drill new oil and gas wells, saying it needed time to reform a regulatory agency that was rife with conflicts of interest and too lax in its oversight.
Those reform efforts are ongoing.
While the impact on the oil industry was major, the impact of another “Summer of 2010” would destroy the convention and tourism business of the Gulf Coast.
Therefore, with business ramping up again on the drilling front, the long term reform efforts are worth the minor headaches of conforming to those changes.
Business is business, and when you weigh the long-term damage another spill could have, the reforms are a small price to pay for all of us to continue our livelihoods in the states with beaches along the Gulf of Mexico.
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