Bill to make Louisiana fossil fuel sanctuary state comes with risks

An attorney for the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources said today that a bill to make Louisiana a fossil fuel sanctuary state could jeopardize the state’s ability to enforce environmental programs.

According to Louisiana Illuminator, There are several federal environmental regulations—including the Clean Water Act and intrastate pipeline safety requirements—that the state is granted primary enforcement authority, says Blake Canfield, executive counsel at Louisiana Department of Natural Resources. But, Canfield testified at a hearing of the Louisiana House Committee on Natural Resources and Environment that the state is granted that authority under the stipulation that its laws and policies meet federal standards. HB617 by Rep. Danny, McCormick, R-Oil City, would prohibit state employees from enforcing any federal act, law or regulation that “negatively impacts fossil fuel energy in Louisiana.”

The bill’s current language could cause the Environmental Protection Agency to revoke Louisiana’s enforcement authority for some federal environmental programs, Canfield said. That would mean the EPA would be charged with overseeing the programs at the state level, he said, and the EPA’s staff is stretched thin. If DNR can no longer inspect oil and gas facilities and approve permits, the state could see a slowdown in permitting, he said.

The chairman of the committee, Rep. Jean-Paul P. Coussan, R-Lafayette, expressed concern that the bill could have an effect that’s opposite McCormick’s intent by giving more authority to the federal government when it comes to the oil and gas industry. Despite other questions about the constitutionality of the bill, several representatives signaled their support to push back against President Joe Biden’s energy policy.

“I don’t trust the people in Washington right now,” Rep. McCormick, who built his career in the oil and gas industry and owns M&M Oil, said. “All I know is that the goal is to regulate the oil and gas business out of business.”

The bill was voluntarily deferred Wednesday, but Coussan vowed to work with McCormick to tighten up the language of the bill to avoid jeopardizing the state’s enforcement authority. Read the full story.