Texas Fears De Facto Drilling Moratorium
As recently as a couple of weeks ago, drilling companies reported that the moratorium had had little short-term effect on the Texas drilling industry.
Fewer than 10 of the 33 deep water drilling rigs in the entire Gulf went elsewhere to search for work. But the industry has worried about future consequences, even after the moratorium was lifted.
“I think that the moratorium has had a profound effect on the prospect of future work in the industry,” saidCameron Wallace, with the Houston drilling firm Helix Energy Solutions. “It’s thrown up a lot of uncertainty, and makes future planning much more difficult.”
Despite the end of the ban, for some in Texas, the uncertainty continues.
Elizabeth Ames Jones is a member of the Texas Railroad Commission, the state agency that regulates the oil and gas industry. She says it remains to be seen just how fast federal regulators will get deep water rigs back to work.
“Moratorium is as moratorium does,” says Jones. “And we will see if in fact, the moratorium is truly lifted. If they do not generate permits to the operators to go out there and drill, then the moratorium is effectively not lifted.”
Other officials echo Jones’ concerns.
“We’ve got hundreds of thousands, literally, hundreds of thousands of jobs at stake along the Gulf Coast, a hundred thousand or so probably in the Houston,” says Republican U.S. Congressman Pete Olson. He represents a suburban Houston district that’s home to many drilling-related businesses. He says the moratorium was a knee-jerk reaction to the oil spill.
“A terrible tragedy. You know, I’m not going to downplay it, I mean, this is the worst oil spill in American history,” says Olson. “But to shut down the whole industry, you know, these 33 rigs, these exploratory rigs because of this one problem doesn