Exclusive: Louisiana Senator Says Gulf Needs BP, Other Drilling

Senator Mary Landrieu said fight for cleanup and for oil is a "conundrum."

ByLEE FERRAN via via logo
June 09, 2010, 3:45 PM

June 10, 2010— -- On beaches along the Gulf the fury leveled towards BP for the massive oil spill is nearly palpable, but one Louisiana senator said that as much as people may blame the oil giant for environmental and financial disasters, the area needs BP now more than ever.

"First of all, the last company that people in the Gulf want to see go bankrupt is BP because we're depending on them to clean up our environment and make our people whole," Lousiana Sen. Mary Landrieu told "Good Morning America" today in an exclusive interview. "One of the more important issues... [is] half of our families make their living fishing, the other half of our families make their living in the Gulf drilling for oil and gas that this country desperately needs."

The area's dependence on the oil industry and its population's nearly visceral anger towards the same industry over the spill has created something of a "conundrum" for the region, Landrieu said.

"We have to on the one hand fight to clean our environment and help our fishermen to do what they need to do to stay whole, but we also have to get this moratoria that the administration slapped on without a lot of economic analysis, in my view, get them to shorten it and get these deep wells drilling safely again in the Gulf," she said.

Landrieu called the government to send "SWAT"-like teams to the other 33 oil rigs in the Gulf to assure they can be operated safely and get them back to work.

"Every one of these deepwater wells employs directly hundreds of people and indirectly thousands," she said. "This is one company. This is one well. It's a terrible situation and no one is making light of it, but what I'm saying, as strongly as I can, to this president is the economic analysis is devastating to many companies, thousands of companies... And we'd better be very careful before we drive every one of these deepwater wells to Africa or India."

The current freeze in offshore drilling could could cost an additional 20,000 jobs over the next year. Over 2,000 miles of fisheries have been closed, idling thousands more workers.

BP Takes a Big Blow in the Markets

BP's stocks plunged in American markets Wednesday and continued to fall in European markets today, likely due to the administration's call for BP to pay the wages of fishermen put out of work by the spill, experts said. Since the spill began on April 20, the company has lost over 50 percent of its stock value -- around $85 billion.

BP CEO Tony Hayward attempted to reassure stockholders that the company had enough money to pay for the disaster and the thousands of legal claims likely to come and that the company would not go into bankruptcy.

BP claimed for weeks they would pay any "legitimate" legal claims and in Alabama National Guard was mobilized to help residents file their claims. But the process has not been smooth as businesses said they are caught in a plume of red tape.

CLICK HERE to read ABC News' full report on BP's stock plunge.

Beyond the Money, a Personal Toll for the Families of the Dead

While the overall economic toll for the spill is estimated at $11 billion and rising, the families of the 11 oil rig workers killed in the April 20 explosion are meeting with President Obama today in hopes of reminding him of the personal loss they've suffered.

"He's just worried about the birds and the fish and the people who are not making their money," Cindy Shelton, girlfriend of Adam Weise who died in the explosion, told "Good Morning America" Wednesday. "And I understand that is their livelihood and they deserve to be taken care of, but what about us?"

Keith Jones, the father of Gordon Jones, who died the same day, said he's had no contact from BP. Shelton said that two BP officials came to Weise's memorial service and sent flowers.

Arleen Weise, Adam's mother, was especially infuriated by Hayward's comment last month that he "wants [his] life back."

"That all seemed like a gnat, you know? It will just go away," she said.

The families realize that it's their sons, brothers, friends and boyfriends that will never get their life back.

"I cry everyday," Jones said. "How many days has it been? 51? I've cried 51 days."

ABC News' Claire Shipman contributed to this report.

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