Cassidy pushes Landrieu to consider oil money bill
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu has said her top priority as the new chairwoman of the Senate energy committee is working on efforts to steer more offshore oil and gas drilling money to Louisiana's treasury for coastal restoration efforts.
Landrieu's Senate race challenger, Republican Congressman Bill Cassidy, said Landrieu has the perfect opportunity to tackle that goal with a House-passed bill that would do just that.
Cassidy urged the Democratic senator in a letter Friday to let her Energy and Natural Resources Committee consider the legislation, saying an amendment he included in the bill could mean billions of additional dollars for Louisiana's coastal rebuilding plan.
"Everyone in Louisiana agrees that increasing the amount of money that Louisiana receives as its share of royalties from oil and gas drilling off our coast is essential," Cassidy said in a statement.
At issue is a provision in an existing, Landrieu-sponsored law called the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, or GOMESA, that will allow Louisiana and other Gulf states to get 37.5 percent of the revenue generated from new oil and gas drilling off their shores. The law was passed in 2006.
In Louisiana, the dollars are earmarked for storm protection, flood control and coastal restoration. But the revenue sharing is capped for the four states — Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Alabama — at $500 million a year, when the dollars start flowing in 2017.
Cassidy's amendment would increase the cap to $1 billion, starting in 2023.
The GOP congressman, hoping to unseat Landrieu in the November election, suggested Landrieu's resistance was tied to partisan politics.
The House legislation, passed in June 2013, is opposed by President Barack Obama's administration, because it would force the opening of new offshore drilling locations, among other concerns.
But Landrieu is pushing her own, different proposal in the Senate that would be more beneficial to Louisiana than Cassidy's House-backed amendment. Her proposal would start the payments sooner, rather than waiting until 2017, and would gradually lift the cap entirely.
Landrieu offered no indication Friday she would hold the hearing Cassidy sought.
In a statement, the Democratic senator said her 2006 GOMESA legislation has already secured millions for the state, and she noted her committee already has held a hearing on her revenue sharing legislation.
"I am sure the people of Louisiana are happy that Bill Cassidy has finally joined the fight for revenue sharing for the Gulf Coast," Landrieu said.
She added: "Unfortunately, Rep. Cassidy voted for a bill that makes Louisiana wait to share in this revenue, and that is inconceivable and unacceptable."
Over the years, state officials have argued Louisiana was owed a greater share of the offshore royalty dollars because it provides vital infrastructure used by the oil and gas industry and because wetlands and coastline have been damaged by the deep canals carved into Louisiana's marshes and dredging from the industry.