U.S. House OKs more money for La.

06 28, 2013 by The Advocate

U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy successfully added an amendment Thursday to House legislation that would increase revenue-sharing for Louisiana on offshore oil-and-gas production starting in 2023.

The amendment was successfully tacked onto the U.S. Offshore Energy and Jobs Act, which would open up offshore drilling production in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

The problem for Cassidy’s amendment is that the bill is considered dead on arrival in the Senate and the White House has already issued a veto threat on it.

Still, Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, called it a “major victory” for Louisiana after the bill passed on a mostly partisan 238-185 vote with the entire Louisiana House delegation in support. The hope for the amendment is if the Senate passes some kind of energy production bill, then the two bills could go into a conference committee to find a compromise.

Last year, former Rep. Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, and Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, passed a similar amendment in the House that died with Senate inaction on an overall bill that Democrats opposed.

Cassidy’s amendment would increase the cap on revenue sharing for Louisiana and other Gulf Coast states based on Sen. Mary Landrieu’s Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, which became law in 2006 but does not fully kick in until 2017. The funds would be dedicated to coastal restoration efforts.

That law would allow Louisiana to share in the 37.5 percent royalty that the federal government receives from new drilling in 8.3 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico.

But the offshore-drilling revenue sharing is capped at $500 million a year for the Gulf Coast states. Cassidy’s amendment would increase the cap from $500 million to $1 billion starting in 2023.

“It just moves Louisiana, Texas, Alabama and Mississippi a little bit closer to parity,” Cassidy said on the House floor.

Since 1920, interior states have kept nearly 50 percent of revenues from all oil, gas and coal produced on federal lands. However, energy production offshore of the Gulf Coast states has generated $211 billion in federal revenues, while the states have received very little.

But Rep. Sam Farr, D-Calif., scoffed at Cassidy’s argument. “I can’t believe Republicans are suggesting the Treasury ought to be robbed of another $11 billion that goes to deficit reduction,” Farr said.

Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., argued that the amendment actually would increase federal revenues by creating incentives for more offshore energy production.

Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, also came to Cassidy’s defense. “All we’re asking is a little bit closer to fairness,” Scalise said.

In the Senate, Landrieu, D-La., filed her FAIR Act — Fixing America’s Inequity with Revenues — bill earlier this year to expedite and increase the revenue sharing of offshore oil-and-gas production with Louisiana and other coastal states.

The FAIR Act would remove the $500 million cap and move the timeline up from 2017 to 2013.