Landrieu criticizes administration on energy revenue bill

07 29, 2013 by The Town Talk

Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska slammed the Obama administration last week for opposing their bipartisan legislation that would steer more royalties from energy production on federal lands to coastal states.

“I find it tragic the administration’s position on this issue and seemingly heartless given the great challenges” facing Gulf Coast communities, Landrieu, a Democrat, told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Landrieu and others questioned an official from the Department of Interior and other witnesses, including an official from Houma, at a committee hearing on the FAIR Act (Fixing America’s Inequities with Revenue) of 2013.

Landrieu says Louisiana and other coastal states deserve a greater share of funds from royalties and fees collected from energy production on federal lands off their shores. Opponents of the bill, including watchdog groups and the Sierra Club, argue the money should go to the U.S. Treasury to help pay down debt and other bills.

“The administration cannot support the bill,” Pamela Haze, deputy assistant secretary for Budget, Finance, Performance and Acquisition for the Department of the Interior, told the panel. “We believe the Congress has addressed this issue.”

The measure proposed by Landrieu and Murkowski, a Republican, would send up to 37.5 percent of revenue from offshore energy production back to coastal states where it is produced. Lawmakers want to speed up distribution of the revenue from 2017 to 2014 as set up under the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006.

Lawmakers from coastal states complain that while inland states may keep 50 percent of energy revenue produced on federal lands, revenue from offshore energy production is sent to the Treasury.

The measure would also gradually eliminate a $500 million cap of the revenue share by 2024. It would also expand energy production to include onshore and offshore renewable energy.

Haze said eliminating the cap could hurt. “This loss of revenue to the Treasury is a major concern for the administration as agencies are already forced to do more with less under sequestration,’’ she said.

Landrieu has proposed similar legislation in the past, but it has never made it out of committee.

On Tuesday, Landrieu questioned Haze about the “double standard’’ for interior and coastal states.

“The people of my state cannot even begin to understand the position of this administration,’’ said Landrieu, adding that interior states don’t experience the same land loss or the loss of lives such as in Hurricane Katrina.

She also noted that coastal states produced $211 billion in offshore energy.

Reggie Dupre, executive director of the Terrebonne Levee and Conservation District in Houma, said the revenue could help speed up the Morganza Project. The levee project to help protect residents in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes has been delayed for years.

Dupre said the community has relied on state and local funds to spend $225 million on the first phase of the project.