By Stephen Waguespack
Louisiana is a sportsman’s paradise outfitted with world-renowned hunting, fishing and countless other outdoor pastimes. Our people clearly understand how fortunate we are to have this bounty of recreational treasures at our fingertips and go to great lengths to appropriately utilize and protect this gift each and every year.
At the same time, we are proudly a “working coast” and many Louisianans head to work every day to help find, produce, manufacture and distribute the energy that fuel’s our nation’s economy. For years in Louisiana, sons and daughters have routinely entered the same industry that employed their parents and grandparents in generations past. It is a tradition we wear on our sleeve as a badge of honor.
It is a tradition we must honor and protect, though it is constantly in jeopardy because of a number of growing factors, such as rampant lawsuits, burdensome regulatory tactics, increasing taxation and global unrest.
With this backdrop, the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is seeking public comment on the federal government’s five-year offshore oil and gas leasing program for 2017-2022. The agency is hosting meetings around the country to gather input, and accepting public comments at bit.ly/BOEMComments.
I would urge anyone looking to support such an important industry to Louisiana and country to make their voice heard.
On behalf of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI), we submitted testimony in advance of last week’s public meeting in New Orleans (bit.ly/BOEMLetter) to demonstrate our members' strong support for region-wide leasing in the Gulf of Mexico in the development of the Draft Proposed Program. Proceeding otherwise would further cripple a vital Louisiana industry that is struggling in a fragile economy.
The Gulf of Mexico provides 20 percent of the nation’s crude oil supply, performing an essential service to meet the nation’s energy needs, and providing jobs and economic opportunities for the American workforce. In Fiscal Year 2014 alone, Gulf of Mexico energy development supported 651,000 jobs, contributed over $64 billion in GDP, and provided over $7 billion in revenue to the federal government.
Here on the Gulf Coast, Louisiana is the nation’s No. 2 producer of both oil and natural gas and ranks No. 2 among the states for refining capacity. Louisiana’s energy industry supported tens of thousands of jobs throughout all 64 parishes and contributed nearly $1.5 billion in states taxes in Fiscal Year 2013 (15% of all taxes, licenses, and fees collected by the state).
Any scenarios that might diminish or end new leases in the Gulf of Mexico from the 2017-2022 offshore program poses significant risks to the nation’s energy and economic security as well as livelihoods and communities across Louisiana and the Gulf Coast. Without Gulf of Mexico lease sales included in the 2017-2022 leasing program, the Interior Department estimates that the country would have to turn to imports to replace nearly 60 percent of the foregone production.
Innovation and technological advancements are made every day by energy leaders to protect habitats and safeguard workers while producing the energy that keeps America and Louisiana secure.
The Gulf of Mexico’s offshore resources are a critical component of a sensible national energy policy that promotes access to reliable, affordable domestic energy for years to come.
These are Louisiana jobs at stake – jobs that help fuel the American economy. While we Louisianans clearly realize there should be no debate that this program should include region-wide leasing in the Gulf of Mexico, we cannot take anything for granted.
Make your voice heard before the federal government makes their final decision. These jobs are a tradition worth saving.