Members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation have long called for lifting the executive ban on exploration in Louisiana’s Outer Continental Shelf, but now that a presidential candidate and top federal agency have joined the push, the issue is gaining new momentum. The United States is the only country that has closed more than 80 percent of its outer continental shelf to drilling. Outdated estimates, last assessed in the late 1980s, assume there are as much as 18 billion barrels of untapped oil and 76 trillion cubic feet of natural gas off of U.S. coastlines.
President George W. Bush has requested that Congress open up OCS area in the Gulf of Mexico to drilling, but he hasn’t made any moves to remove an executive prohibition — issued through his own office — on similar exploration. Generations of Louisiana lawmakers, such as Rep. Charlie Melancon, a Napoleonville Democrat who represents portions of southern Acadiana, have filed legislation to lift the statutory ban, but have been unable to make any headway — until now. “He still supports it and is hopeful,” says Robin Winchell, Melancon’s press secretary, of the recent changes.
For his part, Rep. Charles W. Boustany Jr., a Lafayette Republican who represents the rest of Acadiana, sent a letter to Bush Thursday asking him to take action immediately to help lower the price of gas, if for nothing else. “The President was right to call on Congress to lift the congressional OCS exploration ban, but he must lift the executive ban now,” Boustany says. “Increasing American supplies of oil will help decrease the price at the pump squeezing families in southwest Louisiana. The President can eliminate his ban on exploration now, and Congress should follow his lead.”
In many ways, Boustany is following the lead of his party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain, who has advocated increased OCS energy production to both lower prices at the pump and increase U.S. supply. During a speech in Houston, Texas, last month, McCain said it would be a sure-fire way to decrease Americas’ dependence on foreign fuel sources. “The price of a gallon of gas in America stands at more than four dollars. Yesterday, a barrel of oil cost about $134,” said McCain. “And various oil ministers and investment firms have confidently informed us that soon we can expect to pay 200 dollars for every barrel, and as much as seven dollars for every gallon of gas.” When it comes to environmental concerns, McCain has said he would not support drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or other sensitive areas.
The U.S. Minerals Management Service, the federal body that oversees federal oil-and-gas leases, has also called for a lifting of the bans with some limitations. MMS Director Randall Luthi, speaking to reporters last week on a conference call, said the new OCS areas would yield fuel for up to 15 years, during which time the U.S. should focus more resources on alternative energy sources.
As for Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, the Democrat Party’s assumed presidential nominee, his official energy plan does little to address the expansion of OCS drilling. Obama’s campaign planks focus instead on reducing oil consumption, retooling fuel-economy standards and creating new tax breaks. “John McCain’s plan to simply drill our way out of our energy crisis is the same misguided approach backed by President Bush that has failed our families for too long and only serves to benefit the big oil companies,” Hari Sevugan, an Obama spokesperson, recently told The Washington Post.
One of the more viable measures floating around Congress to lift the OCS ban is sponsored by Rep. Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania and 43 other House Republicans, including Boustany. Murphy also co-signed the letter to the President penned by Boustany. Winchell said Melancon was not asked to take part in this particular push by Republicans, but he does support the intent.
UPDATE: MSNBC is reporting this morning that Bush will announce his plans to lift the executive order on OCS drilling. Click here for the story.
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The Cane Fire Film Series screens “MaidenTrip” on Monday, March 10, at the AcA.
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The Louisiana Workforce Commission said Friday that initial claims rose to 2,125 from the previous week's total of 1,964. There were 2,887 initial claims during the comparable week in 2013.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, March 07, 2014:
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
She’s the daughter of the legendary Johnny Cash, but she’s been a gifted artist in her own right for three decades, and she’s coming to Lafayette.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
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The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Prepare yourselves for sun
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
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Queen Evangline and King Gabriel ruled Tuesday night
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.
IND Style does Gabriel
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The NFL has formally designated New Orleans' Jimmy Graham as a tight end for the purposes of his franchise tag value, which is now set at $7.05 million next season unless Graham and the Saints subsequently agree on a long-term deal.