Lafourche Parish nervously watches oil price drop - FOX 8, WVUE, fox8live.com, weather, app, news, saints

Lafourche Parish nervously watches oil price drop

MATHEWS, LA (WVUE) -

In Lafourche Parish, life along the bayou can be slower, and the oil and gas industry has been good to the community for years.

"Employment is the key here because we've had such a very low unemployment rate. We've maintained a 4.2 percent and even gotten lower than that at one point,” said Lafourche Parish President Charlotte Randolph.

But now there are legitimate jitters as oil prices continue on a downward slope.

"The biggest concern is keeping people employed, because lower prices generally mean cutbacks,” said Randolph.

Some businesses that service the industry said they are already feeling the effects of what has been good for drivers at the gasoline pump, but bad for the oil and gas industry.

"Companies are concerned about it. There have been layoffs,” said Don Briggs with the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association.

The price of oil has dropped 40 percent since July.

"When oil prices get as low as they are today and possibly will continue to be in the 60s or even lower the next year, yes, it has a big impact,” said Briggs.

British Petroleum reportedly is ready to downsize its workforce.

“BP employs several thousand people in the state of Louisiana, and certainly that will have an impact on those jobs in Louisiana. Hercules Drilling Company  - they've announced that they're laying down three to four rigs and 354 direct jobs in Louisiana, and other companies will be doing the same,” Briggs said.

Randolph said royalties from oil and gas sales benefit her parish to the tune of at least $5 million annually, so any slowdown in activity has consequences for Lafourche Parish.

"That money is often used for capital projects as well as to supplement those funds that don't necessarily take in the amount that they normally should,” she said.

She said businesses across the board in Lafourche will feel it if oil prices continue to fall.

"If you're running a hospital and you're dependent upon insurance - the oil and gas industry has terrific benefits, keeps these hospitals with cash so they can continue to treat those patients as well as those that need assistance. We tie everything here to oil and gas,” said Randolph.

But she said the news is not all bad because as people save at the pump, they tend to spend more, and that boosts parish sales taxes.

Oil is at less than $65 a barrel, the lowest since 2009. 

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