NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The widows of two men killed on the Deepwater Horizon drill rig urged lawmakers Monday to allow drilling in the Gulf of Mexico to continue, saying the oil industry is a major source of income for families in the region.
"Drilling in the gulf must continue," said Courtney Kemp, of Jonesville, La., whose husband was killed along with 10 other workers when the drill rig exploded and sank in April. The rig, operated by Transocean, was contracted to develop a well leased by BP.
"If drilling ceases, not only would off-shore employees lose their jobs," said Kemp, "but the trickle-down effect would be devastating not only to the coastal states, but eventually to the entire country."
The comments came during a hearing of the House subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations in Chalmette, La., to explore the local impact of the oil spill in the Gulf. It was the latest in a series of Congressional hearings aimed at exploring the causes and consequences of the worst oil spill in U.S. history.
Natalie Roshto, of Liberty, Miss., whose husband Shane also died in the disaster, said lawmakers should focus on enforcing existing regulations to prevent another disaster, rather than creating new rules for the oil industry.
"I fully support offshore drilling because like Shane, many men and women depend on this as a means to provide for their families and to provide our country with a commodity that is a necessary part of everyday life," she said.
In response, Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., said he believes drilling will continue in the Gulf, but he cautioned that a "pause" is necessary to determine what caused the current disaster. The government has instituted a six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf pending the outcome of an independent investigation in to the disaster.
"There will always be drilling in the outer continental shelf," he said. "We just need to do it better."
While the witnesses supported off-shore drilling, they said more needs to be done to prevent oil companies from putting profits ahead of safety.
Roshto said her husband spoke highly of Transocean (RIG), but she suggested that sometimes "business agendas" took priority over safety issues.
"BP's priority is always safety," BP spokesman Robert Wine told CNN.
The witnesses also urged lawmakers to revise legislation that limits compensation for spouses of workers killed on the high seas and to ensure that BP (BP) is held accountable for all costs associated with the disaster.
Obama doesn't have the authority to create a startup visa, but part of his reform announcement could include a workaround for entrepreneurs: 'parole status.' More
Nearly half of all Americans say there's a chance they'll have to work during a holiday between Thanksgiving and New Year's, according to a new poll. And one in four say they'll have to work whether they want to or not. More