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Drilling still not up to level before moratorium

Thibodaux, La.- It is the lifeblood of southeast Louisiana and before the Deepwater Horizon explosion in 2010, more than two dozen deep water rigs were tapping new veins in search of oil. 

All deepwater drilling in the Gulf stopped after President Obama imposed a moratorium from May to October of that year and the slowdown of work lasted much longer. 

"Pre moratorium, there was an average of 27 active rigs in the Gulf of Mexico," says Lori LeBlanc, executive director of the Gulf Economic Survival Team.  "Based on the current Baker Hughes reports, there's actually only 18 active rigs in the deep water Gulf of Mexico today." 

The Gulf Economic Survival Team, or GEST, works with oil and gas companies to navigate the permitting process, which underwent major changes after the oil spill. 

The state Department of Natural Resources released new figures last week showing offshore drilling had surpassed pre-moratorium numbers.  LeBlanc says those figures don't take into account how many rigs are actually drilling. 

"We're not back to moratorium levels by no means when we're talking about active rigs that are out there with the purpose of drilling for oil and gas in the deepwater," she says. 

Fewer active rigs means fewer offshore jobs for Louisiana workers. 

Don Briggs, president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, says shallow water rigs are also still being impacted, even though they weren't part of the moratorium. 

"The shallow water is operated mostly by smaller independents," says Briggs.  "About 95 percent of that and all the new regulations and insurance rates and everything else that is being required of the smaller independents is making it very very difficult for them to have certainty in their investment there." 

But Briggs says the waters off Louisiana are still rich with resources and the companies are slowly coming back.  He thinks it will take a more welcoming energy policy by the federal government to truly get the gulf back to work.

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