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Gov. Edwards Asks Biden Administration To Lift Oil Leasing Moratorium

U.S. Department of the Interior
An offshore oil platform operates in the Gulf of Mexico.

Gov. John Bel Edwards testified before federal lawmakers at the nation’s capital on Thursday. Edwards, a Democrat, wants President Joe Biden to reconsider the moratorium he instituted on new oil and gas lease sales in federal waters as soon as he took office.

The ban includes sales of leases in the Gulf of Mexico. Many environmentalists support the move.

So far, the pause hasn’t had a huge impact on business in Louisiana, but Edwards warned the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources that eventually the state will start losing money. He says oil money is essential for restoring the coast, especially through the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA), which dedicates a percentage of lease sale fees to Gulf states.

Louisiana received about $110 million from that fund this year, which is a decrease from previous years. Edwards lobbied the senators to increase the percentage the state gets from GOMESA funds. The moratorium on lease sales could further decrease the amount headed to Louisiana from the fund.

He also described his ambitious carbon emissions reduction goal of achieving neutrality by 2050. “We’re committed to these goals,” he said. “But at the same time we are a major oil and gas producing state. In order for Louisiana to experience an orderly and responsible energy transition...federal oil and gas production must continue in the Gulf, and well into the future.”

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., sits on the committee, and pressed the director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Amanda Lefton, to commit to lifting the moratorium on lease sales, saying 250,000 jobs are at stake.

“I am committing to you, sir, that we will have an interim report that is going to be out in the early summertime,” said Lefton, who added that the administration’s leasing policies remain under review.

Oil industry advocacy groups issued statements regarding Thursday's hearing in support of Gov. Edwards.

The Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association (LMOGA) president, Tyler Gray, said, in reference to GOMESA funds, “It remains abundantly clear that limiting energy development will stifle Louisiana’s economic growth and threaten thousands of jobs, but it will also undermine decades of environmental progress.”

Support for the Coastal Desk comes from the Greater New Orleans Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, and local listeners.

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