Gulf clean-up keeps locals employed

Workers clean up oily globs that washed ashore from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in Waveland, Miss.

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Kai Ryssdal: Even though the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico isn't actually leaking anymore, oil companies still have a big clean up ahead of them. Yesterday, the Department of the Interior said they're going to have to do something with all the junk they've got out in the Gulf. Unused rigs and wells and platforms and pipelines -- it's pretty crowded out there.

Getting rid of it all is going to be expensive, but Marketplace's Eve Troeh explains there will be a payoff, too.


Eve Troeh: The Interior Department says it's too dangerous to leave unused oil wells temporarily plugged, especially during hurricane season. Storms Katrina and Rita caused hundreds of small leaks. But the industry says sealing old wells is a headache that companies can't afford right now.

Chet Chaisson: Just something else that the oil companies are going to have to abide by that's gonna make the cost of operation much more than what it has been.

Chet Chaisson directs Port Fourchon in Louisiana, a hub for offshore drilling. He says the industry having to shell out more money is good for locals. They'll be hired to plug old wells and tear down rusting platforms.

Chaisson: That'll be good for the supply companies and vessel companies and all the people that service the industry.

Surprisingly, most locals who work in the industry have been getting paid. That's despite months of sanctions that the government and industry said would lead to massive oil company layoffs.

Brennan Matherne: They've made so much money over the last few years that they've been able to retain their employees despite the drilling moratorium.

That's Lafourche Parish official Brennan Matherne. He says oil companies want skilled workers to stick around, so they've shifted them to new jobs.

Matherne: Someone working on a crew boat going back and forth from those rigs now may be painting boats.

The new government rules for cleaning up old drilling sites will boost job numbers along the Gulf for months. But local officials are afraid that increased regulation could drive oil out of the region in coming years. And then those predictions of thousands of jobs lost might slowly, finally, come true.

I'm Eve Troeh for Marketplace.

About the author

Eve Troeh is News Director at WWNO-FM in New Orleans, La., helping build the first public radio news department in the station’s 40-year history. She reported for the Marketplace Sustainability Desk from 2010 to 2013.

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