Businesswoman Lori Davis didn’t mince words at Tuesday’s U.S. Senate field hearing in Lafayette, LA: “The Obama administration has done absolutely nothing to protect, help or support us as an industry that feeds and powers this nation.” Davis told the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, “We need answers, we deserve answers, we need to return to work.”
Davis, owner of RIG-CHEM, was one of many victims who gave a very human face to President Obama’s ongoing Gulf drilling moratorium, currently not scheduled to be lifted until November.
The adjustments we have to make just to move forward are deeply cutting every day into a quickly diminishing savings. …We have determined that [we] can maintain without cutting salaries or benefits for our employees. … I’m sad to say this can only last until December. After this we will be forced to lay people off and cut benefits.
Charles Goodson, owner of Charley G’s Restaurant in Lafayette, has already seen his profits plummet nearly 57 percent, and expects to end the year at a loss should the moratorium stay in effect.
Our management team, my daughters and my wife have started to prepare our company for a major slowdown if jobs are lost in the oil industry in our area. Our first line of defense will be a hiring freeze, salary freeze and halt[ing] all lease hold improvements. Our second line of defense is to discontinue lunch. By discontinuing lunch, we would have to eliminate … 11 jobs for one small local restaurant. The moratorium casts big doubts over the future of our small business.
Goodson marked his testimony by declaring that “recklessly shutting down this industry will result in a tsunami-size wave of impact on all other industries in Louisiana.”
Indeed, the “tsunami-size wave of impact” continued to be reflected in testimony by Dewitt David, a local real estate agent. Comparing pending home sales in Lafayette Parish from June 1, 2010 through August 13, 2010 (the time the moratorium has been imposed) to last year during the same time frame, David explained that there has been a total drop of 22.6%. And commercial real estate “activity has slowed drastically since the moratorium has been in effect and is almost at a standstill.”
“We’ve all heard the numbers that for every one job on a deepwater drilling rig there are eight ancillary jobs. But I contend that there is a much greater impact than those numbers reflect. The rig workers and their eight supporting workers are now carefully watching their spending and it is having an effect on everyone.
“Bottom line is this! The moratorium is not just on the drilling and the ancillary jobs supporting the drilling — the moratorium is a strain on everyone in this area. It is critical to our local economy that the ban on deepwater drilling be lifted immediately so the air of uncertainty and fear that is hanging over all of our heads be removed.”
Local oil and gas banker, Troy Cloutier, delivered a grim economic outlook:
“Going forward we see business being very nervous about what is going to happen in the oil industry. Because of the moratorium on deepwater drilling, some of the big companies are planning to go overseas, because they have the financial resources to do so. The smaller companies, however, like the 7 that I have put in business over the past 5 years with SBA loans, are very fearful their work will dry up once bigger companies move overseas and hire other providers.
“I was talking to an oilfield executive the other day who pointed out the irony of the fact that businesses moved to the Gulf in the last few years because the political landscape in our country was so stable. Now those same businesses are moving overseas because of the political landscape in the country.”
Cloutier’s acquaintance is exactly right.
The moratorium has been woefully lax on justification (according to the president’s own commission) and has served to do little more than represent a semblance of political decisiveness from Obama, who seems to be using the disaster as an excuse to curtail domestic oil production and advance “green” agendas.
But it seems Obama, despite his decision to maintain the moratorium, is in no hurry even to offer justification.
Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), who was in attendance at the field hearing, criticized the Obama administration for failing to have a representative present to hear and respond to the testimony of the affected residents:
“This is the second time I’ve asked the Obama administration to send a representative to provide a rationale for the moratorium and to hear firsthand how it’s hurting Louisiana families and businesses, and once again no witness showed up. It’s sad, but it’s revealing of how the administration has approached this moratorium all along. They want to decide what they think is best for us, but it’s clear from their response to this committee that they don’t care how many jobs they kill in Louisiana.”
And the moratorium on offshore drilling will continue to kill jobs on the Gulf Coast. Drilling safety continues to be of great concern, especially following the dramatic damage the Deepwater Horizon spill has already caused, but the disaster doesn’t beg to be compounded. Louisianans are now officially becoming victims of the moratorium, which has already begun to coalesce into a “tsunami-size wave” of destruction. If the Obama administration doesn’t quit playing around in the water and end this charade, it may leave the residents of the Gulf devastated for a long time to come.
To Lori Davis, it’s a matter of right and wrong:
“We’re tired of feeling like we’re in a constant battle being fought against us by the people chosen to lead us during difficult times. This is an insult and a direct and personal attack on us individually and on an entire industry that has for many years proven that it can operate safely. Why should one company’s mistakes become the burden for an entire industry … this is wrong and undeserved.”