LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And I'm Renee Montagne.
The Obama administration has lifted a deepwater drilling moratorium that it imposed last May after the BP oil well explosion. At the time, 11 workers were killed, more than 200 million gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf and an industry critical to the region has been on hold.�
Even with the ban lifted, drilling isn't expected to resume immediately, so rig workers remain in limbo. Kathy Lohr spent time with one Louisiana family trying cope with that uncertainty.�
KATHY LOHR: Ken Tanguis and his wife Jeanette live in Houma, Louisiana, a small city south of New Orleans in the heart of Cajun swamp country that's long depended on fishing and on the oil industry.�
For most of Ken's life, he's been a mechanic for Diamond Offshore Drilling, one of the largest drilling companies in the world. Since last spring, his rig and others have been shut down, but he is still on the payroll. Like many others, he's doing maintenance work even though there's not much do. Diamond has laid off more than 300 workers, including about 50 on Tanguis's rig, and that hit him hard.�
Mr. KEN TANGUIS (Mechanic, Diamond Offshore Drilling): You know what you have in the back of your mind, you know, that while your home that phone could ring. You look on there, Diamond Offshore would be on there and do I answer or don't answer, you know.
(Soundbite of laughter)
LOHR: Tanguis works on a rig called the Ocean Monarch. He's 53 and stocky with a full head of gray hair. He says many of the rigs are offshore waiting.��
Mr. TANGUIS: Presently, we have three deepwater rigs stacked there and let's see, one, two, three, four, five jacked up rigs stacked over there. We're just waiting on work.�
LOHR: And despite the moratorium being lifted, Ken's wife Jeanette Tanguis says life is still pretty much on hold.
Ms. JEANETTE TANGUIS: You don't buy anything because - is he going to go back to work? You think about it all the time. That's what's the worst part, is it hangs over your head. It's been hanging over our head since what, May?
Mr. TANGUIS: Yeah.
Ms. TANGUIS: Each time he leaves to go to work it's like, yea, maybe we'll get three more weeks, you know. It's hard living like that.�
LOHR: Outside the family's suburban ranch style home, several yard signs show their support for the New Orleans Saints. And one red and white one shows their opposition to the moratorium. Since the moratorium, Ken works three weeks on and three weeks off. And on one of those recent days off, Ken is busy painting and doing chores around the house.�
Mr. TANGUIS: It's a good thing you can cook good, because you couldn't afford to pay me by the hour.
LOHR: Tanguis knows he makes a good living. He still gets his regular salary of about $100,000 a year. But because he doesnt know when drilling will begin, Ken says he's still worried.�
Mr. TANGUIS: How easy is it going to be for me to find another job? Who's going to want to hire somebody, you know, middle aged guy? And who's going to pay me the amount of money I'm making now. I mean granted, I would take whatever I could get; but at the same time, it's like, you know, am I going to wind up having to lose my house? I've noticed, since I've been home for this past week, driving around the neighborhood, that I've seen more for sale signs out.
Ms. TANGUIS: It's people leaving because of the oil field. You know, you have to here, you have to go there. I mean, it's just scary.�
LOHR: Hundreds of oil and gas workers have lost their jobs. Others have been reassigned to rigs outside the U.S. At least four deepwater rigs have left the Gulf and it will be years before they could return. Diamond alone has moved three rigs out of the Gulf and sent them to the Congo, to Egypt and to Brazil.�
Ken and Jeanette were relieved that the moratorium was lifted, but Ken says he has no clue how long it will take for companies to get new permits and for the industry to be up and running again so he's still worried that companies will cut more employees.
Mr. TANGUIS: I don't want a hand out from the government. I don't want a hand out from BP. I don't want anything. I just want to go back to work. I want to go back to drilling.
LOHR: Ken Tanguis worked on a rig overseas years ago and vowed he wouldn't do it again because he wants to stay close to home. But as the uncertainty drags on, he now says he'd take that option rather than lose his job altogether.
Kathy Lohr, NPR News.�