Oil-struck Louisiana says don`t stop drilling
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Last Updated: Saturday, June 12, 2010, 13:36
  
Grand Isle, Louisiana: Despite thick globs of oil that have coated their sandy beach, scared away tourists and forced fisherman to hang up their nets, Grand Isle residents insist the spill is no reason to stop drilling.

Pete Thompson had to ask for help buying groceries for the first time in his life Thursday. Sitting smoking a cigarette in the shade with his dog, he exuded despair.

"Right now, I'm doing nothing," he said when asked what he does for a living. "Counting traffic."

An electrician, Thomson used to earn a good living servicing tourist camps and cottages in the winter and fishing in the summer.

"If you don't clean oil, you're not going to be doing anything," he said repeatedly as he fiddled with a grocery voucher he got from a local church.

Thompson said he does not trust BP to clean up the growing mess in the Gulf of Mexico and expressed anger at the firm for failing to cap the ruptured well gushing at least 40,000 barrels of oil a day into the sea since April 22.

Still, he said President Barack Obama's six-month moratorium on exploratory offshore drilling will cause further damage to the economy.

And besides, he said, "people need the oil."

The moratorium has shuttered 33 deepwater drilling rigs that were operating in the Gulf. Experts say it could take six years to replace them because of the high demand for rigs.

The Louisiana Economic Development department estimates the drilling suspension will translate into a loss of 3,000 to 6,000 jobs in the first two to three weeks and potentially over 10,000 jobs within a few months.

Governor Bobby Jindal called the moratorium a manmade disaster that will compound the state's suffering.

"Our bottom line is that we absolutely want drilling to be done safely, but it shouldn't take months of federal government committees and meetings," Jindal told reporters.

"Just because the federal government can't do their jobs doesn't mean thousands of Louisianans should lose their jobs." Edmond Camardelle, 84, drove down to Grand Isle from his new home in a town 100 miles (160 kilometers) away to see what happened to the beach he had called home for over 40 years.

"Sickening. It's just sickening," he told.

His nephew runs a bait shop on the other side of the bridge and has seen the business collapse. He said he was worried about his elderly neighbors who do not know how to do anything but fish. But he had even bigger worries.

"That six-month moratorium, that's going to kill this place," he said. "All those people (and rigs) are going to move to other countries."

Camardelle said BP made mistakes and should take the blame for the spill, but the oil industry has worked in the Gulf for decades without any other major spills, aside from those caused by Hurricane Katrina.

"We shouldn't complain," he said.

"They ought to keep on drilling, keep on working and put more safety on (the rigs.)" Chris Santini stared at empty beachfront cottages while on a break from his job as a firefighter and paramedic.

The cars driving by on Grand Isle's main road were mostly filled with journalists and the sweaty men who lay out floating boom barriers and rake oil off the beach. Santini was angered by BP's intrusive questions to those seeking compensation for lost business and wages.

"One way or another, it's hurting everybody," he said, while also blaming Obama in the same breath. "If he shuts down the oil field for six months, we're history," Santini said. "You'll have people stealing and breaking into homes."

The emergency worker spent 23 years toiling as a welder in the oil industry and said he had faith in big oil's commitment to safety. He urged the government to increase inspections and insisted the explosion that brought down the Deepwater Horizon rig was an accident, while also acknowledging human error.

"This is the first major catastrophe that we've had that's blown over here," he said. "If an airplane crashes, they don't shut down all the airports."

Bureau Report


First Published: Saturday, June 12, 2010, 13:36


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