Candidates share views on oil industry

09 13, 2012 by Daily Advertiser

Five men want to represent residents of nine Louisiana parishes that employ thousands in the oil and gas industry or related businesses.

Not surprisingly, all five candidates said in recent interviews that they support the oil and natural gas industry. But their views differ when it comes to the specifics of regulation and permitting in the wake of the 2010 BP oil spill.

U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, is the incumbent in the district, having been elected in 2010. U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, was elected to the 7th Congressional District in 2004, but that district has been absorbed by the 3rd Congressional District.

The other three men, all from Lake Charles, include a Republican, a Democrat and a Libertarian.

Elected in October 2010, six months after the infamous Deepwater Horizon tragedy and BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Landry gained notoriety during President Obama's January 2011 State of the Union Address by holding up a sign that read, "Drilling = Jobs."

He landed an appointment to the committee that oversees the agencies that regulate drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and Landry said he worked with House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings and others to put pressure on agencies to speed up the issuance of drilling permits after the BP spill.

When the Deepwater Horizon platform exploded and burned in April 2010, killing 11 workers, lives were saved because a ship happened to be at the rig, Landry said. He proposed a requirement that life boats be stationed near every oil rig during drilling operations, when the danger is greatest.

Boustany said he co-sponsored numerous bills to aid the industry and led efforts to lift the Obama administration's moratorium following the Deepwater Horizon tragedy.

"After the spill, I took the lead in highlighting the fact that our small, independent producers in shallow water were being hit with a de facto moratorium," he said.

Boustany said he's opposed to the "Landry tax," a $3.5 million tax on every drilling and production rig in the Gulf, referring to his opponent's proposal requiring a ship within a certain distance of every drilling and production rig. That "does nothing for safety" but will disproportionately hurt independent producers, he said.

Dr. Bryan Barrilleaux, R-Lake Charles, said he supports development of the abundant resources in this country, particularly oil and natural gas. But it should be done by private industry without government subsidies.

Barrilleaux said he supports some of the ideas in the energy platform outlined by Republican presidential candidate Gov. Mitt Romney, one of them being allowing states to have a greater role in permitting.

He suggested the U.S. model its permitting process after Canada's streamlined process that involves one review per project with a defined time for issuing a permit.

Ron Rich, a Lake Charles attorney and the lone Democrat in the race, said the nation's oil supply should come from North America to create jobs and improve national security.

"We spend way too much of our blood and treasure tromping Middle Eastern sands defending our oil interests there," Rich said.

He supports the expansion of land-based and offshore drilling along the east and west coasts and Alaska, and he believes more refining should be done here, too.

Jim Stark, a Lake Charles Libertarian, said one of the incumbent congressmen seeking re-elect did not adequately fight the Obama administration after the BP spill to open additional areas for drilling, he said.

"I'm all for that. I put gas in my car. I like to drive," Stark said, "as long as we're not wrecking the environment and doing it safely."

Some want absolute freedom for oil and gas companies, but Stark said there has to be a reasonable balance between government regulation and private business operations.