Gov. Barbour urges states not to back drilling moratorium

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - By Danielle Thomas – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Lieutenant governors from around the nation toured Mississippi's barrier islands Wednesday to assess the impact of the Coastal Crisis. Attendees at the National Lieutenant Governor's Association Conference also heard Governor Haley Barbour ask them to join Mississippi's opposition to the moratorium on deep water drilling.

Governor Barbour said a ban on drilling could spell economic disaster for the entire country.

If a 40 percent drop in tourism from the oil spill wasn't bad enough, Gov. Barbour believes the moratorium on deep water drilling is making the coast economy worse. He said oil companies are already packing up and taking Mississippi jobs with them.

"They're not going to let these rigs sit there forever," said Gov. Barbour. "Once they leave, they're not going to turn around and come back in six months."

A room of lieutenant governors listened as Gov. Barbour spoke out for better regulation and against moratoriums.

"We have a situation in the Gulf right now that was probably caused by a unique situation in the Deepwater Horizon; I don't think an industry problem," said Lt. Gov. Craig Campbell of Alaska. "With the amount of drilling in the Gulf that's gone on in this decade and with the amount of drilling that we do in Alaska, to have one problem does not mean the whole industry is wrong and needs to be shut down."

Gov. Barbour said 30 percent of our nation's oil comes the Gulf and 80 percent of that is from deepwater drilling. Some leaders aren't thrilled about going to alternative sources.

Lt. Gov. Greg Bell of Utah said, "Already we're importing way too much oil. We're dependent on oil from countries that don't agree with our political environment. Makes us politically and economically vulnerable. So we need to enforce the regulations. Make sure we have good practices, but we've got to produce our own energy."

"Our governor from Alaska is also in agreement that the moratorium is the wrong call," said Lt. Gov. Campbell. "Our county is very dependent on oil. Alaska pumps a lot of oil and the Gulf pumps a lot of oil. If you cut that oil off, you are now buying oil from the Middle East. You're importing oil. We've had a long process of trying to cut ourselves off from importing so much oil. We're going to drive ourselves back into the imports even stronger if we do this."

One lieutenant governor said before a decision is made on deepwater drilling, there should be more discussion about alternative energy.

"I'm from Rhode Island. Clearly it's an issue for us," said Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts. "Also as a marine-based state, we have a lot of concern about off-shore drilling. I think it's important we have a full public discussion about what we're going to go with that."

The governor said he has a theory as to what will be the eventual confirmed cause of the Deepwater blast.

"This is the first time in 30,000 wells that anything like this has happened," said Gov. Barbour. "I can't tell you with certainty, but I suspect as time goes on, we're going to see that the normal procedures for the drilling of this well, particularly at this depth, weren't followed."

Gov. Barbour said the less energy our country produces, the more Americans will have to pay for imports. The governor said that oil will be brought in on tankers, which is riskier than off-shore drilling because tanker accidents have caused of most of our country's major oil spills.

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