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Monday, June 14, 2010

Anger in Louisiana over offshore drilling moratorium

"You tell me we can't do more than two things at a time in this country."

Anger mounted in Louisiana over a moratorium imposed on offshore drilling as President Barack Obama toured the oil spill disaster zone Monday vowing to protect the Gulf way of life.

"It's a sucker punch," said Terrebone Parish president Michel Claudet.

The coastal parish is reeling from the impact of the oil coating its marshes and bayous, shutting huge swaths of the Gulf of Mexico to fishing and threatening a way of life treasured for generations.

The combination of both the oil and fishing industries being hit is potentially deadly for the local economy.

"The reason it's even worse is because historically when one industry is down they drifted to the other one," Claudet told AFP.

The Louisiana Economic Development department estimates the six month moratorium on exploratory drilling announced by Obama last month will translate into the loss of up to 10,000 jobs within a few months.

Many will be here in Terrebone Parish where 60 percent of the local economy is tied to the oil and gas industry, from the people who ferry the workers out to platforms to those who build the pipes.

"Of the people in my parish who've been affected by the spill I've yet to talk to one person in favor of the moratorium," Claudet said.

The reason is simple, said Kimberly Chauvin a commercial fisherman and dock owner who just spent 60,000 dollars expanding her processing plant and is afraid she'll never get the money back.

"I have family in the oil and gas industry," she said.

Investment firm Morgan Stanley estimated last week it could take up to 18 months for the Obama administration to complete a review of the offshore drilling industry, too long perhaps for some local businesses reliant on the industry to survive.

Several of the 33 rigs affected by the moratorium are already preparing to leave for friendlier waters and experts warn it could take years to replace them because global demand is so high. (Continues here)

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