Bill would require vessels on standby
Published: Sunday, April 24, 2011 at 6:01 a.m. By Kathrine Schmidt Staff Writer
HOUMA — A safe ride should be close by if something goes wrong offshore.
That’s the goal of a bill introduced last week by U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, which would require that a “standby vessel” be within 12 miles, or a one-hour range, of manned offshore platforms or drilling rigs in the Gulf.
Even though there were life boats and life vests aboard the Deepwater Horizon, when the rig went up in flames some still had to make the “unimaginable” decision to jump overboard in hopes of saving their lives, Landry said.
Had it not been for a supply vessel that happened to be nearby and a fishing boat that helped rescue workers, the death toll could have been higher, he said.
“We could end up with fatalities for no reason,” said Landry, who announced the bill earlier this week and said it would be considered by the House Natural Resources Committee, of which he is a member. “I felt the industry could use a little nudge.”
The bill could mean a big economic benefit for the local offshore vessel industry.
That could translate into valuable support as Landry fights to keep his seat after the redistricting session carved up his 3rd Congressional district, forcing him to run against U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, in a district that favors Boustany.
A spokesman for Landry, Millard Mulé, rebuffed the suggestion that the bill intends to curry favor.
“Saving lives is not political at all,” he said. “That’s what this legislation is about.”
Landry said he intends the latest legislation, H.R. 1572, to be a “common-sense” solution improving worker safety, but is also willing to work with industry and be flexible on the specifics.
The fate of the bill is still uncertain: Landry doesn’t have any cosponsors yet, and Louisiana Sens. David Vitter and Mary Landrieu didn’t respond to requests this week about whether one of them would introduce a corresponding bill in the Senate.
“The most valuable resource in the Gulf of Mexico is not the oil and gas underneath the Gulf; it is the men and women who are willing to risk their lives to extract America’s energy,” Landry said in a release this week.
But some contend the bill as written would be impractical and redundant, given the thousands of manned platforms in the Gulf, high level of service traffic already present and response capacity from the Coast Guard.
“You can’t put a policeman at every corner,” said Don Briggs, president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association. As for safety response, he said, “I think we have those practices in place.”
Others say Landry’s bill is a step in the right direction when it comes to planning for the worst, particularly if a platform is especially remote or inaccessible by air because of bad weather.
Jim Adams, CEO of the Offshore Marine Service Association, said the group has not taken an official position on the bill.
“One of the lessons learned from a year ago is that the industry, in a comprehensive fashion, needs to have better contingency planning for safety,” he said.
“There is a role for an identified vessel to provide emergency response. The particulars of what that capacity would be, and the proximity, needs to be developed in a collaborative matter.”
Posted on April 24, 2011, in Drilling, Gulf of Mexico, Oil & Gas - offshore, United States and tagged Barack Obama, Billy Tauzin, BOEM, BOEMRE, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement, Charles Boustany, David Vitter, Department of the Interior, Drilling, energy, gulf of mexico, House Natural Resources Committee, Interior secretary ken Salazar, Jeff Landry, oil, Oil & Gas - offshore, President Obama, United States, United States House Committee on Natural Resources. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.