BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards’ office and the state’s congressional delegation are joining forces, claiming President Joe Biden’s moratorium on oil and gas drilling leases will hurt an industry that drives the state’s economy and fronts its coastal restoration projects.
Critics of Biden’s Jan. 27 order gathered Wednesday inside the Louisiana State Capitol. Speakers included Edwards’ chief counsel, coastal aide and natural resources secretary — plus Rep. Clay Higgins (R-Port Barre), Rep. Garret Graves (R-Baton Rouge) and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-Baton Rouge).
“It is going to be death by a thousand cuts,” said Graves, who likened Biden’s energy policy to discarding a victorious college football coach and quarterback. “If when LSU was winning the national championship undefeated, if somebody came out and said, we’re going to switch out Coach O and Joe Burrow, can you imagine what the public would have said?”
“The Biden administration wasted no time launching a full-scale assault on oil and gas that will send production overseas and further injure the economy,” Higgins said.
Biden’s action puts a two-month halt on new permits to drill on federal lands and waters. The president’s team claims the move will let his administration study how oil and gas drilling has affected climate change. Supporters have praised Biden’s goal to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
But the moratorium’s opponents argue there are better ways to reach the White House’s target.
“The state has been working for years with the energy industry, government agencies and the environmental movement to reduce the carbon footprint while continuing to explore, drill and produce oil and natural gas,” said Matthew Block, Edwards’ chief lawyer. “We can have oil and gas exploration done in a way that’s safe for workers and the environment.”
The congressmen argued Biden’s energy ambitions will prompt opposite outcomes.
“Oil and gas production won’t end,” Higgins said. “It will only move overseas, where it’s far less regulated. Sending energy production to countries with horrible ecological records is the worst thing we can do for our climate.”
“When you depend on these other countries, you lose the jobs, you lose the economic activity, and you result in greater global emissions,” Graves said.
Edwards’ coastal adviser, Chip Kline, claimed further hits to oil and gas companies would jeopardize the state’s environmental improvement work.
“We use those dollars to cashflow our entire operation,” said Kline, whose duties also include chairing the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. “We are a state on the front lines of a climate crisis.”
Edwards has assigned his natural resources czar, Thomas Harris, to draft the Biden White House a letter. The document will ask the U.S. Department of Interior to issue new Gulf of Mexico drilling permits once again.
“It’s not that he disagrees with the president’s goal to reduce carbon emissions, but he believes there are better tools to address the goals,” Harris said of the Democratic governor. “I think the best thing we can do is make the coherent argument that what they’re proposing is not the appropriate path forward.”
The speakers at Wednesday’s meeting voiced hope that the Biden administration will hear their concerns.
“I’m hopeful that as we move forward, as they get their administration stood up, we’re able to show them — from a science perspective and historical perspective — what happens when you do these things,” Graves said.
“He’s a guy I believe we can work with,” Higgins said of Biden. “Did I oppose his election? Absolutely, but that’s behind us now.”