Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Louisiana official said oil firms have begun pulling rigs out of the Gulf of Mexico OFFICIAL $BP $APC

NEW ORLEANS (AFP)--A Louisiana official said oil firms have begun pulling rigs out of the Gulf of Mexico since U.S. President Barack Obama declared a six-month halt to deepwater drilling after an accident prompted the worst oil spill in U.S. history. "Already, three rigs have left or are in the process of leaving the Gulf of Mexico," Chett Chiasson, executive director of the port commission for the town of Port Fourchon, which services 90% of deepwater activity in the Gulf, said. "If this moratorium goes for six months, these rig operators and these oil companies will have no choice but to go somewhere else," with a devastating impact on jobs and the economy of Louisiana and the rest of the United States, said Chiasson. A spokesman for Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (APC), which leased and operated the three rigs, said the company had "notified three of our rig contractors that we were terminating our contract because with a six-month moratorium on exploration and appraisal drilling in the Gulf, there's no work for those rigs." But he was unable to confirm that the rigs, which belong to three separate companies, were being physically removed from the Gulf of Mexico. Obama extended the moratorium on deepwater drilling to give a presidential commission time to investigate what caused the April accident on a BP-leased rig that claimed the lives of 11 workers and fouled the sea and sensitive coastal areas with tens of millions of gallons of oil. Last week, BP PLC (BP) placed a containment device over the blown out well, located 50 miles (80 kilometers) off Louisiana, and said it is capturing almost 630,000 gallons of oil a day. But large amounts of oil are still pouring into the Gulf. All 33 rigs that are affected by the moratorium are serviced out of Port Fourchon. In a survey conducted by the port commission, companies in Port Fourchon said the drilling moratorium could force them to lay off 50 to 60% of their staff, or more than 4,000 people, said Chiasson. The moratorium comes on top of a severely curtailed fishing and shrimping season in Louisiana. According to Chiasson, two-thirds of households in southern Louisiana work in the oil industry and the other third works in fishing. The shutdown of the two key industries for most of this year would have "a cascading effect" on the region and would result in heavy job losses in Louisiana and around the United States, warned Chiasson.

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