Survivors of drilling moratorium on Gulf face new hurdles

NEW ORLEANS — Many small regional businesses along the Gulf Coast have largely weathered last year’s moratorium on deepwater drilling but could fail if the pace of such drilling doesn’t pick up soon, according to a new economic impact study by a non-profit group that studies economic trends.

The report, released late last week by Greater New Orleans Inc., says businesses that directly and indirectly cater to offshore drilling rigs — from equipment suppliers to diners — outlasted last year’s six-month moratorium by tapping a $20 billion compensation fund created by BP, the oil company responsible for the massive spill that fouled the Gulf of Mexico. As that money dries up and the pace of permitting for deepwater drilling remains slow, those companies may soon collapse, it says.

“If we don’t get some certainty around regulations, we can begin to hit that wall and see that real steep increase in unemployment,” said Michael Hecht, the group’s president and chief executive officer.

USA Today
1/18/10