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Louisiana gov urges feds to resume offshore leases in months

May 13, 2021 GMT

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Louisiana’s governor urged the federal government on Thursday to resume offshore oil and gas leasing within months.

The head of the federal agency that runs offshore lease sales didn’t say whether sales will resume.

it’s important to support the oil and gas industry even as the nation moves to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, said Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat who has set ambitious climate goals in a state where petroleum fuels the economy and underwrites coastal restoration.

“I’m a governor of an energy producing state but also a state that’s on the front lines of climate crisis,” he told the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources..

The four hurricanes that hit Louisiana last year show its vulnerability to increasing, stronger storms, he said during the session livestreamed from Washington.

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But, the governor said, a prolonged pause or an abrupt end to new offshore operations would devastate Louisiana’s economy and its ability to restore its vanishing wetlands and work against climate change.

Twice-yearly lease sales aren’t the only offshore activity halted by President Joe Biden’s Jan. 27 order calling on the Interior Department to review its procedures, said David Dismukes, head of the Center for Energy Studies at Louisiana State University. It also stopped changes to drilling permits or plans — and applications for those are sent in daily, he said.

“If you got a lease three or four years ago and submit a drilling plan, you’re not going to get that processed,” he said.

Edwards said he is urging the government to resume lease sales by the third quarter of this year, and to increase coastal states’ share of offshore revenues.

Closing down production in the Gulf of Mexico would merely move it to countries which have fewer environmental protections, said Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican.

When he asked whether the administration will commit to further leasing in the Gulf, Amanda Lefton, head of the Bureau of Offshore Energy Management, said only that an interim report will be out in early summer.

The Independent Petroleum Association of America focused on that exchange. Lepton “would not confirm that leasing will ever resume in the Gulf of Mexico,” its news release said.

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“This uncertainty is stifling investment for offshore energy producers, hindering not just future wells but ongoing operations,” said Mallori Miller, the group’s vice president of governmental relations.

Dustin Renaud, spokesman for the environmental nonprofit Healthy Gulf, said, “I think its pretty important that Governor Edwards straight-up acknowledged that Louisiana is on the front lines of climate change.”

But his coupling that with a call to continue oil and gas production at current levels is “speaking out of both sides of his mouth,” Renaud said.

“Oi and gas in the Gulf is on a downward trend. ... We need to look forward to where jobs are going to be,” he said.