Landrieu, Richmond angry at LA Times editorial on Gulf oil royalties

09 13, 2012 by The Times-Picayune

Sen. Mary Landrieu and Rep. Cedric Richmond are taking issue with a Los Angeles Times editorial that criticizes them for advocating more oil royalty payments go to Louisiana and other energy-producing states. The editorial is headlined, "Don't bribe states to drill for oil."

"The nation won't wean itself off oil overnight, but we've barely started trying," the newspaper said Wednesday. "Instead of bribing states to worsen our oil addiction and risk their coastlines, we should be focusing on conservation and cleaner sources of energy."

Appearing at a Capitol news conference to advocate for more federal efforts to restore the state's dwindling coastline and wetlands, Landrieu sharply criticized the paper. She seemed particularly irked that the paper's description of Louisiana as an "oil slicked state."

"If you would get on an airboat and get out on the Atchafalaya, you would see the most exquisite freshwater swamps left on the North American continent," Landrieu said.

Afterward, Landrieu said she believes the editorial reflects the attitude that the rest of the country doesn't owe anything to Louisiana for producing the oil and gas to power its automobiles and industry. That view, she said, is particularly outrageous, because Louisiana isn't asking for direct taxpayer assistance but a fair percentage of off-shore royalty payments, along with a share of the Clean Water Act fines from the BP oil spill that Congress recently authorized.

"I would just say that they (the editorial writers) should just get off Rodeo Drive and come down to Grand Isle. I might be able to show them what the truth is," Landrieu said. "I'll take them myself."

The Los Angles Times editorial takes aim at both Landrieu and Richmond.

"What a guy: Rep. Cedric Richmond, arguing on behalf of proposals that would enrich his oil-slicked state by directing the federal government to hand over more royalty money from offshore drilling, said Louisiana deserves the cash because it bears the brunt of the risks from oil production," the editorial said.

Richmond, according to the editorial, argued that the sacrifice helps people in places like California "to be able to turn on their lights."

"Thanks, congressman, but really, you needn't trouble yourself," the editorial continued. "California gets 0.01 percent of electricity from oil, so if you don't want Louisiana to be the scene of the next BP-style oil spill disaster, you don't have to keep drilling on our account."

Richmond, D-New Orleans, responded in an email:

"What the editorial board conveniently left out was that in Louisiana, all offshore royalties go directly into rebuilding our wetlands -- wetlands that protect the infrastructure for 80 percent of the nation's offshore oil and gas production and five of the nation's top twenty ports. This type of hypocrisy is astounding from a state that is ranked No. 2 nationally in oil and natural gas consumption.

"If the LA Times would leave Venice Beach long enough to report on reality they would see that Louisiana keeps the cost of their gasoline and electricity low," Richmond said.

According to Landrieu's office, California uses around 15 billion gallons of gas per year, and has 17.7 million cars on the road.

Landrieu was chided for asking that a law she helped pass in 2006 to give Louisiana and three other producing states 37.5 percent of offshore drilling royalty payments in 2017 be expedited to funnel the money sooner and more broadly.

Landrieu said she's not about to stop pressing for what she views as fair treatment for her state and policies that make "more sense" because restoring wetlands and building stronger levees prevent substantial and costly damage from future hurricanes. That should have been the lesson of Hurricane Katrina, she said.

Nancy Sullivan, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Times, declined to comment on the criticism of the paper's editorial by the two Louisiana lawmakers.