Had someone informed Don Briggs last year before the BP oil spill began that the White House would impose a moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, Briggs, president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, would have found that hard to believe.
“These are billion-dollar investments, and the fact that with just the stroke of a pen, they would shut them down is something that if you would’ve told me that a year-and-a-half-ago, I never would’ve believed that could possibly happen,” Briggs said Thursday in a presentation hosted by his organization at the Windsor Court Hotel.
Briggs, in his annual “State of the Industry” keynote address, frequently criticized federal regulators for their response to the spill and the way they rebuffed efforts to open additional coastal areas for offshore drilling. “Every single corner and way we turn,” he said, “they’re against us.”
He told the crowd that he predicted a “golden age” for natural gas in the United States, saying that “it’s going to play a key role in everyone’s future.”
Briggs also expressed concern about the economic downturn that has lingered six months after the moratorium was lifted and has particularly impacted independent oil and natural gas producers, a group that, he said, holds 81 percent of oil-and-gas-producing leases in the Gulf.
A planned March lease sale of federally owned oil and natural gas drilling tracts in the central Gulf of Mexico was delayed as the Interior Department, which oversees offshore drilling under the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, continues to review the possible environmental impact of drilling.