A Congressional panel heard today from business owners and the seafood industry about the challenges they still face one year after the Deepwater Horizon Explosion. The U.S. House Natural Resources Committee held a field hearing in Houma. Kim Chauvin owns a shrimp processing company and says the oil spill and the loss of business afterward has forced her to lay off over half of her employees. She has found that getting financial relief from the Gulf Claims Facility process has been nearly impossible.(The GCCF says they've approved about 300,000 claims and made payments totaling more than 3-point-8 billion dollars.)
Mike Voisin owns a oyster processing company in Houma. Voisin says they are having a hard time marketing their product out of state, because there's a perception the oil has tainted all Gulf seafood.
Lori Leblanc, executive director of the Gulf Economic Survival Team, says the federal government's moratorium on deepwater drilling after the explosion and now slow permitting process is crippling the oil and gas industry.
Congressman Charles Boustany was there and his this to say:
“As we approach the one year anniversary of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, it should never be forgotten that 11 brave men lost their lives working to deliver the energy all Americans use every day,” Boustany said. “The disaster is an ongoing tragedy for Louisiana and the Gulf Coast region, our economy, and our environment. The difficult lessons learned from this incident must be implemented as part of safety standards for future offshore exploration.
“As gas prices skyrocket, there is no excuse for preventing energy production off our coast. On October 12th Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar lifted the ban on offshore drilling. Yet, he continues to delay the actual issuance of drilling permits, resulting in the de facto moratorium.
“I am pleased to participate in this hearing with Chairman Hastings and hear first-hand from Louisianians directly impacted by this disaster,” Boustany said. “We must ensure every effort is made to guarantee a safe resumption of American energy production in the Gulf. Too many jobs are at risk and too many families and businesses face uncertainty about their future. I will continue to advocate for our men and women along the Gulf Coast and ensure our energy producers get back to work.”
Congressman Jeff Landry was also there as well. This is what he had to say:
"On Wednesday, we will mark the one-year anniversary of the tragic Deepwater Horizon disaster. April 20, 2010 marked one of the darkest days in our history.
All of us along the Gulf Coast continue to mourn the 11 lives lost that fateful day, and we pray for their families and loved ones.
As we grieve, we also yearn for the day when our oil and gas workers can return to work and provide for their families.
When these men and women return to the platforms, they must return to a workplace that is safer than it was before. Due to the efforts of Helix, the Marine Well Containment Company, and all those who drill offshore, we’re getting there. The drilling industry is safer than ever before.
However, as positive as these efforts are, they really only address the protection of the environment; these efforts don’t address the safety of the lives of the men and women working on the platforms who are delivering the energy for tomorrow’s economy.
As the Representative for our oil and gas workers, I am bound to protect the men and women working on the rigs. They are not only my constituents; they are also my neighbors, my fellow parishioners, and some of my closest friends.
As you all know, I am and have been fully committed to fighting for their jobs. I could not look them in the eye or myself in the mirror – if, at the same time, I am not fighting to make sure they come home to their families after they spent weeks out in the Gulf working to provide the energy our nation needs to create jobs.
For this reason, I introduced H.R. 1572 – the “Offshore Installation Emergency Evacuation Act” – legislation that would require a standby vessel to be stationed within 12 miles of offshore drilling installations.
This bill recognizes that the most valuable resource in the Gulf of Mexico is not the oil and gas underneath the Gulf, but the men and women who are willing to risk their lives to extract it. Congressman Tauzin recognized this fact 25 years ago when he introduced similar legislation.
I have spent countless hours talking to roughnecks asking them about drilling safety in a post-Deepwater Horizon world. They have expressed the fact that the lessons learned from the accident were immediately incorporated by the industry into the yearly, monthly, and daily safety meetings that they participate in. What concerns them are the factors which have not been addressed.
You see when an accident occurs, we tend to focus only on the direct cause of the accident. We sometimes fail to look around to see if the accident does not bring into focus additional ancillary dangers. Again, we have spent countless hours and millions of dollars on studies focusing on protecting the environment, but have not focused on measures to protect the lives of the men and women who have dedicated themselves to producing our nation’s energy.
Congressman Tauzin is not the only one who believed these regulations are necessary. Last year, Lt. Commander Michael Odom of the United States Coast Guard told a joint USCG-MMS board investigating the Deepwater Horizon accident that standby vessels should be required. This sentiment is also supported by the official reports from the United States Coast Guard’s Marine Board and National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation of previous accidents.
I recognize that standby vessels are not a complete solution to drilling emergencies. However, helicopters and lifeboats are not complete solutions either. We need a third leg of the worker protection stool, a reliable vessel on scene that can quickly assist in times of emergency.
Remember that Deepwater Horizon was equipped with a full complement of lifeboats and life rafts, yet men still made the unimaginable decision to jump for their lives.
Had the Damon Bankston not been delivering drilling mud, these men would have been in the water for at least one hour and seven minutes – the time it took for the first Coast Guard helicopter to reach the rig.
The Deepwater Horizon accident happened at night, and the helicopters spent a lot of fuel just to get to there. There is no guarantee that these assets would have been able to locate or recover all the men who jumped over the rail. My legislation would guarantee that every man who commits his life to extracting our nation’s energy is met by an equal commitment that, no matter what might happen on the rig, a vessel will be waiting to safely take him home."