Louisiana’s oil and gas industry is balking at President Joe Biden’s efforts to curtail fossil fuel extraction.
Within his first two days in office, his administration has stopped construction of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline and put a pause on new oil and gas lease sales. Industry groups in Louisiana said that could devastate the state economy.
The Keystone XL pipeline would have brought crude oil from Canada to refineries in Louisiana. Environmental advocates have fought the $5 billion pipeline for years, saying it would destroy ecosystems and increase carbon emissions.
Tyler Gray, president of the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil & Gas Association, said the oil and gas industry is already reeling from a pandemic-induced downturn.
“It’s going to be tough in areas of Louisiana that rely heavily on this for jobs,” he said, claiming that if there were a permanent ban on leases, the Gulf Coast stands to lose about 48,000 jobs by 2022.
Banning lease sales for 60 days will also “threaten American energy security,” he added.
A coalition of industry groups called the Gulf Economic Survival Team (GEST) also issued a statement criticizing Biden’s actions.
“This act of prohibiting leasing and permitting in all areas of the outer continental shelf in the Gulf of Mexico is extremely short-sighted and will hurt our Gulf Coast citizens at a time when they are already struggling,” GEST Executive Director Lori Leblanc said.
Environmental advocates, meanwhile, celebrated the president’s actions. Grace Treffinger,an organizer with Sunrise New Orleans, said this is something advocates have been working toward for a long time.
“We also know it’s not enough,” she said. “We also need strong, bold, courageous offensive policies to create new jobs, like the Green New Deal.”
Treffinger said stopping extractive industries is not enough, governments need to invest in retraining programs and building out renewable energy economies.
“If we don't make this transition equitable by creating jobs and training programs, we’re going to see a lot of communities that are dependent on these jobs struggling, and not having anywhere to turn,” Treffinger said.
Gray said the Biden administration's actions don’t come as a surprise to industry advocates, who have been watching Biden’s appointments to key departments closely, but he hopes that the administration finds ways to support the struggling oil and gas industry going forward.