“If you like big oil then this is your bill,” said Congressman Pete Olsen, R-Texas in reference to the reworked regulatory bill currently underway in Washington. Although tongue-in-cheek, Brady’s statement was made on the recent move to raise liability limits from US $75 million to $1.5 billion — a move that would ultimately eliminate independent operators from competing with super majors in the US Gulf of Mexico (GoM).

Olsen was speaking along with fellow Congressman Kevin Brady, R-Texas at the IADC sponsored Town Hall Meeting on Wednesday, July 7, in Houston, Texas. Olsen authored legislation, co-sponsored by Brady, to end the current moratorium on offshore drilling.

Pride International CEO and IADC Chairman Louis Raspino opened the meeting, “The events following the Deepwater Horizon blowout have challenged our industry like we’ve never seen before,” he said. Raspino cited that uncertainty espoused by the Obama administration is forcing many operators to use their current capitalization to get out of the GoM. “This is not an item that can wait six months,” Raspino said.

Olsen described the current legislation as being driven by a job-killing agenda. “The oil and gas industry is caught in the cross hairs,” Olsen said. This is in spite of the fact that, according to Olsen, the majority of experts used by the Dept. of the Interior in the 30-day evaluation period prior to the moratorium claimed that shutting off activity in GoM would not make offshore drilling safer. Although Secretary Kenneth Salazar cited safety issues as the cause of the moratorium, Olsen added, “A blanket moratorium in the Gulf is the wrong decision.”

For the new regulatory bill, Olsen described his own initiative that would prevent pricing small independents out of Gulf activity with increased liability limits. His suggestion involves an amendment to consider risks as they apply to each individual rig, including parameters such as well depth, well pressure, and special considerations for the company’s safety record.

Congressmen Brady followed Olsen with a similar tone. “Being involved in the political process is no longer a choice; it’s a matter of survival for your industry,” Brady said. In addition, Brady attempted to provide perspective on the members of Congress who oppose offshore drilling. “Some of our colleagues don’t see energy workers; they see energy executives,” Brady said. He went on to suggest that each member of the audience take time to make face-to-face visits with their representatives. “Emails won’t work; letters aren’t as effective as making eye contact and explaining the true cost of this current moratorium,” Brady said.

Wednesday’s Town Hall Meeting was aligned with the Obama administration’s appeal to overturn US District Court Judge Martin Feldman’s June 22 ruling that the government lacked clear reasons for the six-month moratorium. Hornbeck Offshore filed its lawsuit on the grounds that the company would suffer severe economic consequences.

The Dept. of the Interior filed its brief late Tuesday in the US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the judge’s decision.

Both Congressmen assured the crowd that a fight was at hand. “We’ll fight for you, but you will also have to fight for yourself.”