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Oil Industry: Integral To Louisiana Culture And Economy For Decades

According to Mark Davis, director of the Institute on Water Resources Law & Policy at Tulane University Law School, Louisiana has had deep ties with oil and gas industry for a long time.

In an interview with NPR's Melissa Block, he said that, in 1947, when the first oil well was drilled in the Gulf of Mexico, Louisianans "recognized it was going to transform [the state], but I don't think they knew how."

It was clear that you were bringing in not only money, jobs, but people who had never been part of the culture of southern Louisiana.

And it wasn't always easy, but I think it's one of those things, particularly in the years around World War II and the Korean War, people knew this was going to be part of the future.

The industry grew quickly, at the expense of wetlands and the coastline.  Early on, everyone seemed to benefit from the industrial growth.

"Those were boom times for Louisiana, and people like to see the boom times continue and to grow, but they also like to make sure nothing changes, and it doesn't normally work that way," Davis said.

Because thousands of Louisianans are employed by gas and oil companies, there has been growing concern about a six-month moratorium on offshore drilling.

According to Davis, "the fears that people have about the potential loss of jobs, that's a real one."

But it's very difficult to imagine that we're going to see us plunge back into drilling based largely on assurances from the industry that those other rigs are fine.

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David Gura
Based in New York, David Gura is a correspondent on NPR's business desk. His stories are broadcast on NPR's newsmagazines, All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and he regularly guest hosts 1A, a co-production of NPR and WAMU.
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