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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

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Official says state lagging in oil and gas growth

Official says state lagging in oil and gas growth

A leading official in the state’s oil and gas industry says Louisiana is lagging behind large national growth in the large local economic sector.

In what one South Central Industrial Association member joked was his farewell tour, Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association President Chris John updated the group Tuesday on the state of the industry as he prepares to leave his post with the state lobbying group.

“I love the offshore industry,” John said. “It’s big and sexy and a big economic driver.”

The oil and gas industry is expected to invest more than $300 billion in new programs over the next two years.

Despite national growth, the state’s oil and gas industry is not growing at the same rate as the rest of the country. Louisiana’s rig counts in the Gulf of Mexico are growing at 24 percent, while other states’ grew by the hundreds, John said.

He attributed the slow growth to taxes and lawsuits, two issues that can be controlled locally and statewide.

There are several major pending lawsuits in south Louisiana that could affect the whole global industry, John said.

The state’s “roller coaster” tax system leaves companies looking to invest in more business-friendly areas, he said.

During his time in Congress, John served on the Energy and Commerce Committee, a committee he said will be turned over to the incoming Democratic leadership who are against the production of liquefied natural gas.

After this year’s midterm elections, the House of Representatives should gain 40 Democratic seats. That represents a “seismic change in where we were headed,” John said.

Many of the committees important to the oil and gas industry are expected to be “troubling” as they are turned over to those who favor more regulations and who aren’t familiar with the economies of south Louisiana, John said.

“People that don’t know about Houma, and can’t even pronounce Terrebonne and Lafourche,” he said.

Between the uncertainty in Congress and President Donald Trump’s “cabinet carousel,” John said, the industry faces many challenges.

Yet, he highlighted what he said were some successes of the presidential administration, namely rolling back regulations, opening more offshore drilling, opening drilling on federal lands, pipeline approvals and cutting corporate taxes.

Next year’s statewide elections will be an important opportunity for the industry, he said.

More than 51 current state legislators will be ineligible to run for another term in their current offices, making up 35 percent of the statehouse, John said.

“We need to be electing the people that share our values,” he said.

John was selected as president of the association in 2007 after representing Louisiana’s 7th Congressional District and serving as a state representative.

John announced his retirement last week. He will be leaving at the end of the year, and the association’s general counsel, Tyler Gray, will serve in the interim until a permanent replacement is chosen.

-- Daily Comet Staff Writer Julia Arenstam can be reached at 448-7636 or Follow her on Twitter at @JuliaArenstam.