NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Louisiana’s two U.S. Senators and others in the state are blasting President Joe Biden’s energy policies designed to address the climate crisis. But local environmentalists praise Biden for putting a pause on the federal government entering into new oil and gas leases on federal lands and offshore waters.
Executive orders Biden signed on Wednesday at the White House aim to cut oil and gas and coal emissions and double energy production from offshore wind turbines by 2030.
Biden mentioned an area of Louisiana called “Cancer Alley” in talking about his new executive orders and what they aim to achieve.
“The hard-hit areas like Cancer alley in Louisiana,” said Biden.
But many in Louisiana’s oil and gas industry and communities that benefit from the jobs the industry provides are highly critical of Biden’s actions.
Archie Chaisson is President of Lafourche Parish which has thousands of oil industry jobs.
“To say that we can’t have oil and gas, or we don’t need oil and gas or we’re going to transition away from it to other modes of energy is just absurd,” said Chaisson.
Instead, Chaisson says Biden’s moves will destroy jobs.
U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Republican representing Louisiana in Congress, agrees.
“That will hurt American energy production and cost American jobs. Now by the way energy will still be produced and there will be jobs associated with it, but it won’t be in the United States, it will be in Russia, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria to name a whole lot of other countries but it won’t be here,” said Cassidy.
Sen. John Kennedy expressed frustration as well.
“I can’t imagine anything right now—in the middle of a coronavirus when our economy is shut down—I can’t imagine much that would be worse for Louisiana families,” said Kennedy. “I have introduced a bill today to reverse President Biden’s action. I’ve got to have some Democratic support in the Senate to pass it, but, if I can pass it, it’s basically going to take away the power of President Biden to do this and require that we have at least two lease sales every year in the Gulf of Mexico.”
Chaisson takes issue with Biden promising new jobs from clean energy to replace those that may be lost in the current oil and gas industry.
“For the president to tell hundreds of thousands of Louisianans, the thousands of Lafourche Parish residents that we’ll find you a job building wind turbines is absolutely a slap in the face to everybody who puts on a hard hat and goes to an oil and gas rig every day or an LNG production well,” Chaisson said.
But environmentalists disagree.
Cynthia Sarthou is the executive director of the organization Healthy Gulf.
“I’m excited, I really think it’s a critical first step in putting us on the path to actually combat the climate crisis that is coming and that we are already seeing. Many coastal communities are at risk, very real risk in Louisiana,” Sarthou said.
And she thinks thousands of clean energy jobs will be created that will benefit Louisiana workers.
“The Biden administration is calling for, significant, billions of dollars of investment in new jobs that are clean energy jobs. And part of that which is a real opportunity for oil and gas workers in Louisiana is in plugging and removing abandoned wells,” said Sarthou.
Chett Chiasson, Executive Director of the Greater Lafourche Port Commission, says over 8,000 jobs are directly tied to Port Fourchon in Lafourche Parish.
And Archie Chaisson says the impact may be far greater given that other Louisiana communities have oil and gas jobs.
“When you add up not only just the drilling aspects, the service companies, the pipe liners when we talk about what happens to the petro-chemical guys and the refineries on the river, when we talk about what happens to the LNG facilities, the big Chenier groups out of Lake Charles and Cameron and Calcasieu Parish, I mean you’re talking hundreds of thousands of jobs just right here in Louisiana,” he said.
Chaisson said Lafourche Parish’s tax revenues will be impacted as well.
“It’s going to be a tremendous one if this thing stretches on between just a 60-day kind of ban,” said Chaisson. “The biggest threat for us is the offshore vessels, so the vessels that service the platforms offshore. In Lafourche Parish we tax just like a normal person’s house would be, they pay property tax on that vessel.”
Sarthou says there is no drilling ban.
“I know that people are concerned about jobs, but I would like to reiterate that this is not a drilling ban, it is a ban on leasing,” she said.
Sarthou is encouraged that Biden is aware of the struggles of communities living near oil and gas industry facilities.
“I think the frontline communities in Louisiana have been struggling for many, many years and you know they have been crying for some kind of attention to the issues, the very real health issues, the pollution issues that they face,” she said.
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