Meanwhile, two dozen Democratic senators urged the new administration to enact tougher restrictions on air pollution created by oil and gas production.
(Daily Advertiser) — Newly inaugurated President Joe Biden enacted a 60-day ban Thursday on new oil and gas drilling permits and leases for federal lands and waters, including the Gulf of Mexico.
During his campaign, Biden vowed to halt new oil and gas leasing on federal land and waters and made addressing climate change and environmental pollution a centerpiece of his platform.
Thursday’s order does not impact drilling already underway or permits and leases that have already been issued.
Reaction was swift from oil industry advocates locally and across the U.S.
“Producing American energy is the heartbeat of Gulf coast local communities from Golden Meadow to Galveston,” Lori LeBlanc, executive director of the Thibodaux-based Gulf Economic Survival Team, said in a prepared statement. “This act of prohibiting leasing and permitting in all areas of the outer continental shelf in the Gulf of Mexico is extremely short-sighted and will hurt our Gulf coast citizens at a time when they are already struggling.
“Today we should be focusing on revitalizing America’s economy and ensuring the survival of many small businesses as well as essential community services that are funded by energy industry tax revenues.”
Any ban on federal leasing and development will have devastating impacts on Louisiana, said Tyler Gray, president of the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association.
“Restricting offshore energy development is backward policy that only harms the livelihoods of thousands of Louisiana families and the communities that depend on industry tax revenues for critical operating resources for local governments and protection and resiliency of our coast,” he said.
Local, Louisiana jobs at stake
Gray cited a recent analysis by his group and the American Petroleum Institute that says an extended drilling ban would impact the Gulf Coast the hardest, estimating 48,000 job losses in Louisiana alone by 2022. The oil-and-gas industry supported more than 249,800 jobs and contributed more than $73 billion to Louisiana’s economy in 2018, the study says.
The Gulf produces about 17% of the nation’s crude oil, federal data show.
Biden’s campaign pledge has raised concerns throughout the industry, particularly in oil-dependent Louisiana. Most of the oil and gas jobs that fuel Houma-Thibodaux and south Louisiana’s economy are associated with drilling and production in federal waters off the state’s coast.
A ban on new Gulf drilling would be the equivalent of a “train wreck” for jobs and the economy in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes, Louisiana economist Loren Scott told local business people in September. Both of the area’s congressmen, Steve Scalise, R-Metairie, and Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, have decried such proposals.
All three acknowledged that questions remain about whether Biden has the ability to end new drilling permits in the Gulf permanently without congressional approval or how long he might taken to enact such a ban.
“But he can make it incredibly difficult to explore for oil on federal lands through executive order,” Scalise said in an October interview with The Courier and Daily Comet.
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