Sen. Landrieu adds provision to spending bill aiding ports that supply oil and gas exploration

06 18, 2014 by The Times-Picayune

Hoping to make dredging Louisiana ports a higher priority, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., added language to a pending spending bill that would require the Army Corps of Engineers to factor the value of goods used in offshore oil and gas exploration in setting funding priorities.

"Coastal energy ports get short changed in Army Corps funding because its classic one-size-fits-all approach does not fit them," Landrieu said. "The Corps can count dirt, but not drilling mud. They can track textile products, but not the topsides that produce energy off our coasts. It is time that this nation begins recognizing the value of our domestic energy industry and investing in the basic infrastructure it needs to grow and prosper."

The Landrieu language was added to a water and energy spending bill approved Tuesday by a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee. It is likely to win full Senate Appropriations Committee approval on Thursday.

"This provision sends a clear signal to the Corps that they must look at more than the number on the scale," Landrieu said. "They must weigh the contribution that our energy ports make to the whole country and put them on a level playing field for federal funds to keep America's working coast strong."

David Rabalais, executive director of the Terrebonne Port Commission, said that the issue is critical because decisions on what ports to deepen are made based generally on formulas that don't accurately measure the "huge volume of activity" generated by ships supplying the oil and gas drilling operations.

He said that one provision in the Landrieu measure that will help would require oil and gas companies to accurately report the shipments passing through Louisiana ports -- something some are reluctant to provide for fear of tipping of competitors. The language includes a reporting provision but also a confidentially provision that would keep the information from being accessed by competitors, he said. Because that information isn't always provided, it puts Louisiana ports at a disadvantage with Army Corps of Engineers formulas based on tonnage that pass through each port, Rabalais said.

"This provision can be very important to us and getting the dredging work that is going to be critical to continue to supply the oil and gas industry," Rabalais said.

Port Fourchon, the Port of Terrebonne, the Port of Iberia, the Port of Morgan City, Plaquemines Parish Port, Harbor & Terminal District and the Port of Lake Charles would be the major beneficiaries of the Landrieu provision.