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Oil Rig Families Ask Obama to Lift Moratorium on Offshore Drilling

By my colleague Gretchen Gailey:

WASHINGTON - Family members of the 11 victims killed in the Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig disaster came to the nation's capitol Thursday to meet with the president and lawmakers to make sure another catastrophe like this one never happens again, but another concern for them was saving their livelihoods.

One widow of the victims thought that President Obama was receptive to raising the moratorium on offshore drilling.

"He (Obama) understood where we were coming from, and I believe that the drilling will commence one day, but right now he is just trying to figure out what will happen," said Courtney Kemp, wife of Roy Wyatt Kemp, said at a press conference on Capitol Hill.  Courtney Kemp met separately with President Obama at the White House and Sens. Schumer, D-N.Y., Leahy, D-Vt., and Whitehouse, D-R.I. on the Hill.

Twenty-seven-year-old Roy Kemp was scheduled to come home the day after Deepwater Horizon exploded. His three-year-old daughter Kaylee, was counting down the days. Her mother says it was always something she always did when waiting for him to come home. Now, her mother is asking the president along with the other family members to remember the hardworking families of the Gulf region.

"We support drilling in the gulf, it is such a, such an economic need, and it will devastate the southern states, if that was ever halted. No one can ever understand the pain that the families have gone through and I hope that never happens again," said Kemp.

Obama put a six-month halt to deep-sea oil drilling after the accident, but some lawmakers and others want him to lift it, arguing that the freeze could idle tens of thousands of oil industry workers.

"Oil field workers are being affected right now due to that stop because they are being laid off and it is so important to our economy.... You can walk down the street and 75 to 80 percent of the workers work in the oil field," said Kemp.

On April 30, Obama laid out his plan to stop drilling and investigate the oil rig explosion, while still remaining adamant about his support for the industry.

"I continue to believe that domestic oil production is an important part of our overall strategy for energy security, but I've always said it must be done responsibly, for the safety of our workers and our environment. The local economies and livelihoods of the people of the Gulf Coast as well as the ecology of the region are at stake," said Obama in April, ten days after the explosion.

In the president's conversations with the families Thursday, according to the families, Obama defended his decision to halt drilling, saying he wanted time to put more safety measures in place to make sure something like the Deepwater Horizon explosion doesn't happen again.

Billy Anderson, father to 35-year-old Jason Anderson who is remembered for his efforts of trying to stop the gas from flowing on the rig floor minutes before the rig blew, came to Washington along with the other families to back changes to the federal "Death on the High Seas Act.'' The legislation limits compensation to survivors of those who die in international waters and Anderson wants to see the more than 100-year-old law changed to reflect the times and have his son's work valued.

"Our loved ones were not lost for nothing. They were doing their job, and their job was to keep the flow of oil going for this country, so everyone in this room and everyone watching this could go to their corner store and fill their gas tank up. That was their job and they are very good at it, they are very good at it," said Anderson through his tears.

Sheila Clark's husband and father of two, Donald, was on the rig floor along with Jason Anderson trying to avert disaster. She says she came away from the meeting with the president knowing he will do all he can do make the situation right.

"I think we all walked away from our meeting with the president feeling very confident that everything he can do, he will do. I feel as if he is going to do his very best."