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U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. (American Press Archives)

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. (American Press Archives)

Editorial: Landrieu, Murkowski have tough fight on their hands

Last Modified: Friday, April 05, 2013 6:34 PM

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu has proposed legislation that will give Louisiana and other energy producing states a more equitable cut of the revenues they help produce.

Landrieu, D-La. and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, are sponsoring the Fixing America’s Inequities with Revenues (FAIR) Act to level the playing field.

“For decades, coastal energy producing states have faced a glaring inequity in federal energy policy that allows onshore producing states to keep 50 percent of revenues, while offshore producing states, like Louisiana and Alaska, keep virtually nothing. This is about justice for the Gulf and jobs for America,’’ said Landrieu when the Act was introduced late last month.

How unequal is it? Consider that in 2011, energy production on federal land in Wyoming produced $2.1 billion in revenue. Wyoming got $995 million back, or more than 47 percent.

In the same year, $5.7 billion was generated in federal revenue from energy production off the Louisiana coast. The Bayou State received $26.7 million or less than one-half of 1 percent.

Had Louisiana gotten a similar cut as Wyoming, the Bayou State would have received in excess of $2.3 billion.

‘‘We are losing our coast at the rate of 25 to 35 square miles a year, or about a football field each hour — a result of years of federal underfunding and neglect,’’ said Landrieu. ‘‘The lack of investment over time has eroded not only our ability to protect ourselves and our coast, but also protect the nation. We run the largest river system in the country and we drain 40 percent of the continent. There is a fairer way to act ... .’

The Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act which was signed into law in 2006 allows Louisiana to get a share of the 37.5 percent the government receives from new drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Estimates are that Louisiana would get as much at $100 million in 2017, the first year it, Texas, Mississippi and Alabama can share in the revenue, which is capped at $500 million.

That money is vital to Louisiana to help fund major projects to arrest coastal erosion and restore the state’s vanishing wetlands.

The FAIR Act would lift the cap and move the timeline when the four states can begin collecting from the offshore revenue to this year.

Landrieu and Murkowski have a tough fight on their hands. Eight Senate Democrats have sent a letter to Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, asking him to oppose the revenue sharing plan.

And President Obama has proposed a ‘‘Energy Security Trust’’ which would use offshore oil and gas drilling revenue royalties to fund a $2 billion trust fund, which is intended to support research and development for alternative energy sources.

‘‘In the White House proposal, there is no security for the Gulf Coast,’’ said Landrieu. ‘‘Until there is security for the Gulf Coast, I can’t be supportive of basically using money produced by Gulf Coast states for everybody else’s security and leaving us sinking into the ocean.’’

Landrieu is on the right side of this issue, but seeing that the FAIR Act becomes law will be trying.

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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

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