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Gulf Oil Spill: 1 Year Later

A year ago today, an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico cost the lives of 11 men and threatened untold damage to the ecosystem. It was an unprecedented disaster, and the tragic loss of life it entailed made it all the more imperative that such an accident never repeat itself.

In the immediate aftermath of the catastrophe, the disaster response proved heroic: The crew of a Tidewater supply vessel rescued the 115 survivors of the explosion in little more than an hour. But in the weeks and months that followed, crisis management proved significantly less adept. It took 87 days to cap the rig’s exposed oil well, which steadily spilled oil into the Gulf. And as The Wall Street Journal reports today, the effects of the Obama Administration’s response to the spill are more apparent now than ever, with offshore oil production down 13 percent and crude oil prices up 33 percent.

Following the disaster, the White House’s response seemed to become little more than a thin cover for the enactment of an economically crippling energy agenda. In May, President Obama issued a six-month moratorium on all deepwater drilling. In June, a federal judge struck it down, calling it “arbitrary and capricious,” not justified by the Gulf’s safety record. A few weeks later, in defiance of the judge, the Administration reissued the moratorium. The judge held the Administration in contempt.

In time for the November 2010 elections — and ahead of schedule — the Administration “lifted” the moratorium — but, for months, no deepwater permits and few shallow water permits followed. A new term was coined: “permitorium.” Eventually, the Department of the Interior issued a few farcical deepwater permits, but today’s average is well below the historic norm.

One year later, even the most resilient Gulf Coast residents wonder how long they can live like this.

Leslie Bertucci, a native of New Orleans and the owner of the oilfield equipment company R and D Enterprises, isn’t shy about sharing her views:

My message for President Obama is that I would love for him to come to R and D Enterprises in Harvey, La., and meet us and see us and talk to our employees and get a real, true understanding of the reality of what is really happening because of this moratorium that shouldn’t be in place in the first place,” Bertucci says.

For this hard-working mother of six — who, with her husband, built her business from its start in a spare bedroom of her home to the industrial campus it is today — says the drilling moratorium has caused her company’s revenue stream to all but dry up. R and D Enterprises supplies equipment to transport chemicals to and from deepwater oil rigs. When those rigs aren’t allowed to drill, R and D’s equipment sits idle.

The best course forward is clear: The Obama Administration needs to resume the usual rate of permitting in both deep and shallow water to reinvigorate the Gulf, recover lost government revenue, decrease dependence on foreign oil, create jobs, and prevent even higher gas prices in the future. No policy can reverse last year’s spill — but better energy policy could ease the burden that the Administration itself imposed on the Gulf.

As Bertucci puts it: “The explosion was horrendous, the loss of life was devastating to the families, to the companies they worked for, to our whole community. I think the damage to our ecosystem, to our marshlands and coastline was awful… The moratorium doesn’t change any of that at all. Safety is No. 1 and needs to be No. 1, but I don’t think that all of the operators in the Gulf need to be shut down because there was a mistake on one rig.”

Click here to watch our new three-minute video on the oil spill and moratorium.

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