Gulf Coast states lag behind other states in getting contracts for oil disaster work

An overwhelming number of federal contracts related to the BP oil disaster have gone to companies outside of the area most affected by the environmental and economic catastrophe, according to data from government agencies.

About $6.5 million in federal contracting money has gone to Louisiana since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded off the state’s coast three months ago, according to the federal procurement database. The number represents about 12 percent of the $53.3 million that’s been reported by federal agencies such as Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Fish and Wildlife Service, Coast Guard and Minerals Management Services. Though it is the most comprehensive information to date, there is no way of knowing how complete it is because it relies on agencies to enter their own contracts onto the federal database.

According to the data, Pennsylvania is seeing the largest government-fueled economic impact, with nearly $14 million in contracts from the EPA, Coast Guard and other government offices going to businesses headquartered there. Other states that received a large share of contracts were Massachusetts with $7.7 million in projects and Colorado and Virginia, both of which received about $6.6 million in work. Most of the contracted work was for engineering and consulting. In Louisiana, businesses also provided boots-on-the-ground services such as motel rooms, helicopters and security, according to the database.

About a third of the reported contracts — 66 out of 201— were not competitively bid because of the urgency of the situation or the “unique” nature of the service or supply needed, according to the database.

While the (oily) Pelican State lost big contracts to East Coast states with more developed engineering sectors, it still fared better than Gulf Coast neighbors with Alabama trailing a distant second with $1 million, and Mississippi coming in last with about $254,000 in contracts.

In the middle range were Florida and Texas, with $602,000 and $486,000 going to the respective states.

President Barack Obama has said BP is financially responsible for all costs associated with the government’s response to the spill. As of July 13, the government had billed the British oil giant for $122.3 million to be paid out of a $4 billion trust fund established by the company, according to a statement from the Deepwater Horizon Incident Joint Information Center. A spokesman for the command center said that all bills from all agencies eventually will be submitted for repayment by the oil company. BP does not keep records of its own contracting practices and cannot not say how much business it has done with Louisiana companies, a company spokesman said.

No data is available on where the jobs are being created through these federal contracts. In some instances, companies based in other parts of the country have contracted out locally or routed the work through a local office. One of the largest contract recipients in Pennsylvania, for instance, Weston Solutions Inc., operates an office on Poydras Street.

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