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Despite BP oil spill, Louisiana still loves Big Oil

Deepwater drilling and Louisiana are synonymous. Despite the BP oil spill, the industry is still seen as delivering lifeblood.

By Bill SasserCorrespondent / May 24, 2010

A shrimp boat carrying an oil-containment boom left Buras, La., May 17 to help cleanup efforts. Despite the BP oil spill, which has wreaked havoc on Louisiana's environment and economy, talk of coming down hard on offshore drilling is virtually nonexistent.

Hans Deryk/Reuters


New Orleans

One week after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig collapsed into the Gulf of Mexico, a letter arrived on President Obama's desk from Sen. Bill Nelson (D) of Florida, demanding an immediate moratorium on offshore oil drilling.

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The same day, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist – a man once seen cheering as Sarah Palin said "drill here, drill now" – called for a special state legislative session to ban offshore drilling.

Even on the other side of the continent, the effects of the Gulf oil spill were transformative: Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger withdrew his support for limited drilling off the California coast.

IN PICTURES: Louisiana oil spill

"If I have a choice between the $100 million [for drilling] and what I see in the Gulf of Mexico, I'd rather just figure out how to make up for that $100 million," he said May 3.

Yet in Louisiana, the state where the spill poses the greatest threat to fragile and environmentally vital marshlands, as well as to the entire fishing economy, talk of coming down hard on offshore drilling is virtually nonexistent.

Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu is steadfastly against a moratorium on Gulf Coast deepwater drilling – as are other members of Louisiana's congressional delegation. Republican Sen. David Vitter has seen fit to chastise Congress for holding hearings on the growing crisis before the deep-sea leak has been plugged.

BP has come in for some harsh words, and in some cases even legal action. But one parish that is suing BP takes pains to explain its purpose: The suit is aimed at BP, not the oil industry, a lawyer says.

That local leaders facing such a disaster feel compelled not to antagonize Big Oil is telling.

It is quintessentially Louisiana.

Louisiana is entwined with offshore oil more closely than any other state. The world's first offshore oil well was drilled in the Gulf, south of Morgan City, in 1947, and the ties binding Louisiana and offshore oil have strengthened since then.