Opinion: In defense of the oil & gas industry

06 14, 2014 by The Daily Advertiser

All I hear is "One Hand Clapping." This is the sound that best describes how I feel after a well-orchestrated public relations campaign that was launched against an industry that has served our citizens well. Disappointed might be a better description, especially after witnessing masses of people (who should know better) jump on a bandwagon that used twisted facts to argue their case. while at the same time, demeaning those who defended the attack.

Why? Because in this effort, they have demonstrated that we will "bite a hand that feeds us" once we have used them to the fullest extent. This pertains not only to oil and gas companies, but could do the same to manufacturers, contractors, entrepreneurs, doctors, accountants, and anyone else who dares to create jobs and provide a living for people who choose to live here.

That said, I will focus on a few "matters of fact." An audit dated June 30, 2013 from the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority – East indicates that they had assets of $380 million and more than $50 million in annual revenues, but they did not spend any monies on coastal restoration. And if their lawsuit had gone forward, there was no requirement that this board spend any money on coastal restoration.

The facts are also very telling. The Baker Hughes Rig Count data shows that since the Corbello legacy litigation in 2003, the Louisiana Rig Count had decreased 32 percent, while drilling is up 98 percent in Texas and up 32 percent in the U.S. And even with this steep decline, the oil industry in Louisiana continues to employ more than 300,000 people, which equates to more than 17 percent of all jobs in the state. A Dr. Loren Scott study in 2011 documents the total direct and indirect impact of the oil and gas industry to be approximately $77.3 billion in the state of Louisiana. And we should also note that each rig working generates more than 180 direct jobs.

If the above is true, and I believe it to be the case, we have to seriously evaluate our future. Are all of us going to be lawyers and try to benefit on the riches of litigation against our bedrock industries? Is this a sustainable model that will generate the jobs and the economy that will support our families? If not, then we need to try and understand the game we are playing and help defend, versus condemn.

Yes, we have a coastal problem. Was it caused by the leveeing of the Mississippi River? Was it the canals dredged for oil and gas exploration? Was it the oyster fishermen or the shell companies that depleted our coastal reefs? Was it the hurricanes that have taken tremendous bites out of our coastline? Or was it a geological event that has caused our coastal areas to sink? Experts and scientists have studied these issues and through the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, have developed, and are implementing and enforcing a comprehensive coastal Master Plan. And while others might think they know better or can do better, the State of Louisiana employs tough regulators who guard our environment, direct coastal activities, and if necessary, penalize those who don't adhere to standards set. While our past has not been perfect, our technology and awareness have advanced over the years and today's mitigation efforts have escalated to overcompensate for the "sins of the past."

Our governor and our Legislature recognize this and therefore have passed legislation to thwart those who are not focused on the environment, but on their own enrichment. We owe them a debt of gratitude and thanks for understanding the "rest of the story."

— William H. Fenstermaker is the chairman and CEO of Fenstermaker.