The Louisiana Independent Oil and Gas Association has created the "LIOGA Industry Relief Fund," which is intended to be used for housing, schools, roads and other immediate needs. More than $500,000 has been raised, and Don Briggs, LIOGA president, says it will increase substantially when a master plan is announced.
LIOGA's membership has a vested interest in getting locales like lower Plaquemines back up and running. "We have to get the area going again," Briggs says. "These are all our employees. If this shuts down, we're in big troubleâ?¦ Buras and Venice and some of those places down there were originally started by the oil industry."
And now it appears the industry may be the one to rebuild it as well. The companies that service oil activities along the eastern gulf shore of Louisiana in Plaquemines Parish, along with a group of gas gathering plants along the Mississippi River there, were either decimated or swamped by a storm surge when Hurricane Katrina made landfall in late August.
Where storage facilities once stood, nothing but concrete slabs remain. Storage tanks are completely submerged, save their domed tops. The levee system in southern Plaquemines is still lined for miles with debris ' chunks of wood, overturned boats, trailers, oil tanks.
It's a heart-wrenching sight for those who know the area well. Briggs recently joined state officials aboard an Air Force reconnaissance jet for a closer look at the devastation. "Oh my," Briggs said to himself, staring out of his window. "That's not good."
More than anything else, the trip strengthened his resolve to get the fund under way. The Venice area is a stronghold for oil and gas service companies, ranging from air transportation to general repairs. Until these businesses can get up and running, the return of the oil and gas industry will be daunting.
"Recovery will be a long and hard slope," Briggs says. "This base is so important to us."
Aside from commercial and recreational fishing, along with sporadic citrus farming, oil-related jobs keep Venice and the surrounding region along the mouth of the Mississippi River afloat, economists say.
Scott Angelle, secretary of the state Department of Natural Resources, says all eyes and ears are on this tiny community. More than 101 million barrels of gas originate from Plaquemines annually, resulting in a severance payoff of approximately $16.4 million for the state. "All of these services can be restaged, but we don't know how long it's going to take," Angelle says.
The price tag to rebuild is expected to be in hundreds of millions, and Briggs wants the LIOGA fund to help with everything from schools to homes, but the organization is still in the early stages of planning.
Briggs says a committee has been formed to oversee the process, and other organizational options are being explored. The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, the state's largest corporate lobby that has the same nonprofit status as LIOGA, teamed with the Baton Rouge Area Foundation to oversee the fundraising and granting process for a similar fund the foundation is sponsoring.
Plans are also under way by LIOGA to fund infrastructure needs in the southwestern part of the state, indicating just how widespread the devastation has been for Louisiana.
As of last week, about 65 percent of daily oil production from the Gulf of Mexico was still closed off ' shrinking from 1.5 million barrels of oil daily to a little less than 1 million barrels. Additionally, more than 50 percent of gas production is down, the equivalent of more than 5 billion cubic feet per day.
While LIOGA is determined to do something about the communities impacted by these temporary shutdowns, there is nothing they can do about the high energy prices on the way.
"Your biggest reason for increased energy cost will be the simple fact that natural gas is shut in," Briggs says. "That's going to be major."
Briggs says several factors can also be pinpointed. He says a lack of alternative energy sources is not a problem in the face of increased heating bills, but rather a lack of alternative drilling sites. "We're being held up by not being able to drill in other areas, such as off the coast of California," he says. "If those bans were lifted, we could really make difference in this."
Another problem has been finding the appropriate equipment and compressors ' many of which have been in short supply ' to replace damaged units. Until these facilities can get back online, many in these little communities will be without jobs, Briggs says. "Right now, with the damage shared between gas processing plants and offshore structures, we're short about 100 compressors and it will take time to build all those compressors, and put them on," he adds. "But I expect they will come on in the same fashion as normal repairs will."
Repairs and damage are so widespread across coastal Louisiana that Briggs says it's hard to place a timeline on when all infrastructure will return to full capacity ' some segments may be fine in a matter of weeks, while other parts could take months or years.
"Different parts of it will be back up soon, while others will take longer," he says. "But our industry is one that will make it happen ' no matter what."
Jeremy Alford is a freelance journalist based in Baton Rouge. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Dallas Morning News and other publications. Reach him through his Web site at www.jeremyalford.com.
The fight to clean up Lafayette Parish could get some added ammunition with two ordinances up for votes Tuesday by the City-Parish Council targeting litter-bugs.
By striking a deal to lessen the blow of health insurance changes on state workers, school employees and retirees, Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration lowered the volume of criticism but gave itself and local school boards a new budget headache.
With the airport tax coming up for a parishwide vote in about a week, the Broussard City Council and its mayor have come out in support of the proposal.
Protesters rallied peacefully in several Louisiana cities in the wake of the Missouri grand jury decision not to indict a police officer in the fatal shooting of Michal Brown.
US cities bidding on Olympics; Guard prevents more Ferguson riots; storm threatens travel and more national and international news for Wednesday, November 26, 2014.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
The U.S. rep billed LSU for work allegedly performed on the same days Congress voted on major legislation and held important committee hearings on energy and the ACA.
Abysmally low participation by the public has prompted the council to scuttle the 2014 survey with plans to simplify it and try again next year.
The village now says the ordinance will likely be overturned and authorities will more vigorously enforce existing leash laws.
Bill Cassidy cast an early ballot Tuesday, seeking to draw renewed attention to a race that has fallen off newspaper front pages and away from people's minds as they plan holiday meals and shopping schedules.
Battered all night by Baltimore's relentless pass rush, Drew Brees could feel his protection collapsing and Terrell Suggs getting ahold of him as he urgently unloaded a pass to the right flat toward tight end Jimmy Graham.
After a convincing defeat at the polls on Nov. 4, Earl “Nickey” Picard has decided to let bygones be bygones with his former right-hand man Brian Pope, announcing his support for his former employee’s runoff bid to become Lafayette’s next city marshal.
Saturday the athletic department did everything possible to ensure the 2014 Ragin’ Cajun seniors remembered fondly their last home game. Rain and lightning never arrived but turbulence did in the form of the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
Even stranger than the Republican Party’s decision to hold a “unity rally” earlier this month for Congressman Bill Cassidy in a Baton Rouge bar, Huey’s Bar, was the fact that the establishment was named after Louisiana’s most famous Democrat.
Bar Code is not a gay bar.
After failing to pass a medical marijuana bill last year, state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, is telling supporters he will return in 2015 with legislation that focuses on different applications like oils and pills.
Voters, obviously, are not yet tuned into the 2015 ballot, despite the intriguing races it will host.
By now, the story of how longtime LSU coach Dale Brown discovered Shaquille O'Neal has been told many times: Brown happened upon a massive 13-year-old at an army base in Germany, stayed in touch with him and eventually became like a second father.
Fate simply wasn't ready to give the New Orleans Saints a break from longtime nemesis Steve Smith.
Lafayette Police have had a busy day.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration will use $130 million in patchwork financing from a tax amnesty program, insurance settlement, uninsured motorist penalties and other excess funds to close most of the state's midyear budget deficit.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu said she disagrees with President Barack Obama's actions on immigration, hoping the latest controversy doesn't worsen her campaign difficulties.
Gay-rights advocates challenging Louisiana's same-sex marriage ban announced Thursday that they have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review their case before it is heard by a federal appeals court.
Thinking himself the “son of God,” the man charged with the 2013 killing of an officer of the Chitimacha Tribal Police will not stand trial following a ruling Thursday on his mental competency.
Either Saints coach Sean Payton doesn't want to tip Baltimore off as to who'll start in New Orleans' secondary on Monday night, or he really doesn't know yet.