Louisiana Reps Urge Salazar to Authorize More Offshore Drilling

HOUSTON (Dow Jones Newswires), Apr. 8, 2009

Louisiana representatives encouraged U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to authorize more offshore drilling for oil and gas at a regional meeting held in New Orleans Wednesday.

The representatives asked Salazar not to forget the importance of the oil and gas industry in the U.S. economy as a source of jobs and tax dollars.

"Lifting the ban on energy development on the outer continental shelf will create 1.2 million jobs across the country and $2.2 trillion in tax revenue," said U.S. Rep. Joseph Cao, R-La. "These numbers represent more than four stimulus packages combined."

The meeting, the second of four sessions the Interior Department plans to hold this month, discussed a proposal to open up all or some portion of 12 areas of the Outer Continental Shelf, six of which previously had been off-limits due to a quarter-century-old federal moratorium. Congressional Democrats allowed the moratorium to expire last fall amid intense voter anger over high gasoline prices.

The Louisiana event contrasted with the first meeting held in Atlantic City, N.J., where opponents of the offshore drilling program dominated the conversation. They said that the environmental risks of more offshore oil and gas development would jeopardize the tourism industry.

The difference between the meetings underscores how divided public opinion is in the U.S. about the touchy topic of increased access to offshore waters by oil and gas producers. Louisiana, a state whose fortunes are closely tied to the energy industry, seems more open to more offshore activity.

"In Atlantic City we had a lot more people talking about renewable energy," Salazar told journalists after the hearing. In Louisiana "it is not at all surprising for me that we have many advocates for oil and gas production because it's part of the life of the Gulf Coast," he said.

State officials told Salazar that although the public is concerned about the environmental risks of oil and gas drilling, the industry has improved its safety record and that it will remain the main source of energy supply for the U.S. in years to come.

"Although it may look like it could be a substitute to oil and gas production, reality is that renewable energy is just a fraction" of the energy the nation needs, said Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La.

U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu, D-La, asked the Obama administration to look very hard at tax changes proposed in the new budget as they could become a heavy burden for the oil and gas industry, especially for small, independent producers that are large employers in Gulf Coast states.

Salazar said the Obama administration isn't at war with the oil and gas industry, but it is pursuing a balanced approach to energy resources that includes not drilling near sensitive environmental areas such as national parks.

"We won't be developing oil and gas everywhere," he said. "There are places where we believe is not appropriate to drill, in the proximity of national parks for example."

Salazar's next stop is Anchoragein Alaska, followed by San Francisco.  

Copyright (c) 2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.


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Rayward Sonnier | Apr. 9, 2009
There is no one that well help the workers in the Oil & Gas industry, but they will Bail Out the Car Industry. Don't they know that if there is no work you can't buy any thing?

James | Apr. 9, 2009
As a life long resident of Louisiana, and someone who worked in the oil industry, I have been severely affected by the recent decline in the drilling in the Gulf of Mexico; I was recently laid off. I am worried about my future, and the future of Louisiana. No good paying jobs, seems like the government would like to pay us government assistance, rather than let us work.

Carlos E. Mateus | Apr. 9, 2009
The country as a whole needs cheap energy for economic development. It is the federal government's responsibility to provide the right environment for the private industry to produce the demanded energy at the lowest possible cost.

Every state of the union should be part of the solution by participating positively in solving the problem. Not being able to find the right solution for the energy needs of the union will further divide this country by forcing each individual state to supply its own energy needs.

Oil and gas is the only short-term solution to the energy problem and other sources of energy need to be developed, at the same time, in a competitive way. It is the Federal Government's responsibility to provide the right environment for these other needed energy sources to be developed.

Chris | Apr. 9, 2009
You can not preach oil independence and not drill domestically. Where do they think the resources will come from? Where is the bailout for the oil & gas industry?

Lance Brown | Apr. 9, 2009
These government officials that are worried about the unemployment rates need to look at the impact that we will have on the gulf coast if these taxes are raised on these small companies. Our industry is already at a low, and we will drive business away resulting in numerous job losses throughout the entire coast. How long will these people not listen to our voices? They are supposed to be working for us not against us. We elected them to work for us not tell us what to do.

James Pittinger | Apr. 9, 2009
It is extremely important to this country's security to become energy independent. We have enough resources in this country to achieve the energy independence necessary to sustain this country's growth, if the companies that discover and produce our natural resources are allowed to do their job without being limited by federal and local governments.

Danny Adames | Apr. 9, 2009
Drill baby drill! I have spent many years in this industry. Offshore drilling is more than just a job, it's a way of life.

Donald Wyatt | Apr. 9, 2009
My hopes are to open up areas for development and get away from dependence on other countries. Especially countries that are always degrading the US.... Yes, I do work in the Oilfield. In the last 44 years I have seen drastic changes in minimizing oil spills and safety.

Gary | Apr. 9, 2009
It's widely proclaimed that every gallon of ethanol replaces a gallon of imported oil. That statement somehow doesn't translate to domestic oil production. U.S. oil is just as American as an ear of corn.

We could import all of our ethanol needs much more cheaply than it costs to produce it here, and it wouldn't cost our government a dime.

Energy farmers should be treated no differently. Oil is our "other cash crop".

Peter Cheek | Apr. 9, 2009
I'm all for other sources of energy but we cannot afford to put offshore drilling on the back burner so to speak until we get these renewable sources of energy found.

Greg Breene | Apr. 9, 2009
Salazar needs to come to the Uintah Basin (Utah) to get a first hand look at what his decision to not allow the leases to go through did. 40-50% of the city of Vernal is out of work now and moving out. This is happening all over the US in oil/gas towns. He needs to allow drilling and exploration in the US....

Herman | Apr. 8, 2009
Well, a step in the right direction for the suffering oil and gas industry. I really think that if the tourism industry does not have oil and gas or the prices were so high they could not afford the trips to their favorite hot spot; they would note that oil and gas drilling here in America is important for the economy, maybe more important then taking a trip when gas prices are $300 a barrel being imported from overseas.

Rhonda Behuin | Apr. 8, 2009
Salazar needs to see the importance of oil and gas independence for the U.S. They act as though it is ok to be dependent on overseas oil and gas. He needs to think about the mode of transportation that he is using to jet around the country and where that fuel is coming from. If they are so environmentally friendly get rid of all the amenities of life that oil and gas provide, ride a bicycle, get out of your luxurious homes with AC/Heating, just to name a few. I am sick of environmentalists jetting all over the country preaching to us about the saving the earth.

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