DNR Angelle Reports Strong Session for Energy, Environment, Economy

06 08, 2012 by Louisiana Department of Natural Resources

Package of DNR-related measures passed in recent session provide for balanced development of resources

Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Secretary Scott Angelle said today that legislators in the past session acted on a number of significant DNR-recommended measures that lay the groundwork for continued economic development and job growth in the energy sector, while adapting the regulatory tools that allow management of that growth while maintaining other critical resources, such as water supply and coastal wetlands.

“The responsibilities of the Department of Natural Resources place this agency at the nexus of matters of producing plentiful energy, preserving a healthy environment, and supporting growth in the economy that employs the people of this state,” Angelle said. “Those “3 E’s” are interdependent, and the opportunities and challenges presented by changes in technology, the global marketplace and even our climate require us to constantly adapt to manage new demands on our resources in a balanced manner. With the help of our legislators this past session, we have made adjustments that will allow us to keep pace with new and emerging situations.”

Some of the significant measures Angelle highlighted were:

  • Passage of a compromise plan for dealing with issues arising in remediation disputes involving oil and natural gas production sites – the so-called “Legacy Lawsuit” issue

Angelle, who was designated by Gov. Bobby Jindal to be the point person on the issue, said that working through the compromise legislation was a months-long effort involving many meetings at all hours of day and night. He said that while it was sometimes contentious, all parties did come to an agreement that balances the interests of protection for landowner’s rights, and the confidence of the industry to continue to invest in exploration in Louisiana, developing resources that provide the kind of economic activity that creates many new opportunities for employment and business expansion.

“Going forward, we have provided transparency in the process, accelerated clean-up of environmental problems and protection for innocent parties from punitive damages,” Angelle said.

  • Creation of specific law governing the Commissioner of Conservation’s regulation of “ultra-deep” oil and natural gas wells drilled to tap into reservoirs at 22,000 feet or deeper below surface

“Even as we have seen the rapid growth of exploration of ‘shale plays’ in Louisiana and other parts of the nation, the energy industry has begun investing in the potential of oil and natural gas production at greater depths in areas of South Louisiana thought to have been too mature for new major projects – including Chevron’s drilling of the two deepest wells in the history of the state in Cameron Parish,” Angelle said. “The new law dealing with ‘ultra-deep’ drilling units will give oil and natural gas exploration companies confidence in their ability to get a return on their investments, and develop projects that support the creation of jobs both directly and indirectly, while protecting the mineral rights of landowners.”

  • Passage of legislation codifying into law the existing hydraulic fracturing fluid disclosure regulations issued in 2011 by the Office of Conservation

Angelle said that, while Louisiana was among the first states to create administrative rules requiring operators to publicly disclose details of the contents of fluids used in hydraulic fracturing, putting those requirements into law sends a strong message that Louisiana is a leader in the nation in ensuring responsible development of oil and natural gas resources.

“As the practice of using hydraulic fracturing to unlock the energy resources stored in shale and other tight formations continues to be more commonplace in the state and the nation, it is critical that we make clear our commitment to requiring exploration companies to operate in a safe and transparent manner,” Angelle said.

  • Expansion of the Ground Water Resources Commission’s monitoring and coordination responsibilities in conjunction with the Office of Conservation, to include both surface and ground water as the Water Resources Commission

Angelle said that water supply is critical for both basic human needs and economic growth. He noted that water demands are a growing issue for many parts of the nation, including neighboring states such as Texas, and even Louisiana’s relative wealth in ground and surface water supply can be strained in some areas.

“As chairman of the Ground Water Resources Commission, I was proud to be able to present the Legislature with the Commission’s study on ground and surface water issues and recommendations – addressing ground and surface water for the first time in our state in a comprehensive approach,” Angelle said. “Now we have the opportunity to develop a comprehensive planning and management process with the changes made in the mission and membership of the Water Resources Commission.”

  • Extension of the program created in the 2010 Legislative Session, allowing cooperative endeavor agreements for use of the state’s running waters, administered through the Department of Natural Resources.

“The process of allowing use of state surface water through cooperative endeavor agreements came about as a means help manage the utilization of surface water by heavy users of water who were seeking alternatives to ground water,” Angelle said. “That allowed continued economic development that might have otherwise been constrained by concerns about access to ground water, which in turn has helped industry expand and create jobs.”

  • Revisions to the state’s Coastal Zone Boundary, where development impacting wetlands is managed by OCM, which included a net gain of 1,887 square miles of land that was determined to have a high level of coastal influence. That science based study was approved by the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, and submitted to the Louisiana Legislature for consideration in this session.

“Our understanding of the factors that impact the health of our coastal wetlands is constantly growing, and one thing we have learned is that the needs of economic development in the coastal zone, and the needs of the coast itself are in a constant state of change from the impacts of both human use and natural changes in climate and water,” Angelle said. “By applying the best and most recent science in defining our coastal zone, we not only enhance our efficiency in managing its use, but also demonstrate to the federal government our commitment to preserving those wetlands.”

  • Creation of the False River Watershed Council as a coordination point for efforts to restore and maintain the aquatic habitat of False River in Pointe Coupee Parish.

Angelle said that once he was made aware of the issues of sedimentation and decline of fisheries in False River Lake, he appreciated the Legislature formally making DNR the lead agency for the project in 2011 and worked with his staff and legislators to ensure that action could be taken quickly to begin restoration of this valuable natural resource.

“False River is simply too much of an asset to be allowed to go to waste, and we as a state have too much experience and knowledge in dealing with similar issues in other areas to let it happen,” Angelle said.

Angelle offered his thanks to legislators in both House and Senate for their efforts and assistance in making constructive amendments and in final passage of the bills impacting DNR and its responsibilities, as well as his appreciation to the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI), the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association (LOGA), the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association (LMOGA), the Louisiana Landowner’s Association and the many other trade associations who participated in the process this year.