The Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006, or GOMESA, is the latest boon for groups like the South Lafourche Levee District for financial support for their infrastructure needs.
Sponsored by former Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu (and Pete Dominici R-N.M.), the measure has finally allowed four Gulf oil producing states (Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas) to share in offshore drilling revenues from leases and royalties.
SLLD General Manager Windell Curole estimates that since 1995, revenues to the federal government from offshore mining (drilling for oil and gas) had ballooned to $6B per year with no sharing by gulf states, while states with federal land within their boundaries on which mining was occurring were sharing 50% of federal income from those sources.
Curole and others thought this was unfair since states like Louisiana were not receiving financial support for their weakened infrastructure which was facilitating the federal treasury’s windfall.
Hurricanes like Katrina in 2005 had also caused a threat not only to the local infrastructure but also to the economy and natural environment of our community and those of other producing states.
The problem was getting the federal government to agree.
So back up to 2004, when a group of bold visionaries began meetings aimed at finding ways to remedy the problem of inadequate funding for our needs.
Those public figures were Ted Falgout, then Executive Director of the Greater Lafourche Port Commission, Clifford Smith, chairman of Billy Tauzin’s finance committee, State Senator Reggie Dupre, representing Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes, and Windell Curole of the SLLD which includes all of south Lafourche including Port Fourchon.
They were trying to get Tauzin to help them with a strategy to share the offshore revenue by suing the federal government to halt an upcoming lease sale.
Tauzin was not in favor of the idea.
“The congressman told the group that the idea was crazy. He reminded the group that the basis of the economy was securing the very work that the lease sale had provided,” said Curole.
The group was also on shaky ground as its members represented the industry which it was trying to stop—they all depended on the oilfield for their survival.
Then SLLD turned to Governor Kathleen Blanco, urging her to sue on behalf of Louisiana.
Although she agreed with the idea and was supported by her State Treasurer John Kennedy, she did not pursue a lawsuit.
In her response to SLLD, Blanco said: “I am not optimistic that a lawsuit will produce the desired result for Louisiana or do so in a timely fashion. Nonetheless, I promise I will stand with you to push this agenda forward.”
Curole then formed another group of members of the Attorney General’s office, Louisiana’s federal delegation, local officials, industry members and some attorneys who met several times to explore other actions, keeping the threat of some form of legal action alive.
Finally, in 2006 Governor Blanco did sue (Blanco vs. Burton, Docket No. 06-3813) with a temporary restraining order to force stoppage of an upcoming lease sale.
Although the judge denied the order, the suit led to a settlement between the state and the Mineral Management Service which led to GOMESA, says Curole.
GOMESA funds would be used for coastal conservation, restoration, and hurricane protection.
Therefore Lafourche, one of eight Louisiana coastal parishes, should realize a sizeable amount of that money.
So what kind of revenue are we talking about?
The U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee (Chaired by Landrieu) suggested that about $30 million would be realized by the state from offshore revenue collected between 2007-1016 (Phase I), as per the GOMESA Act.
In Phase II of that plan which began in 2017 and which expanded the areas that qualify for revenue sharing, Louisiana would realize another $600 Million.
Curole was hopeful that many of SLLD’s projects would be considered for funding.
“South Lafourche Levee District played its part in getting those funds from the federal government to the state of Louisiana,” he says.
Below is a list of SLLD’s critical unfunded projects:
- Larose Floodwall Vessel Impact Barrier--$1.04M
- D-South elevation to 18 ft.--$1.05M
- E-North Elevation to 15.5 ft.--$2M
- Section F Berm Improvement--$1.9M
- A-East Berm Improvement--$3.3M
- Miscellaneous Floodwall Improvement--$3M
- Bayou Lafourche Water Retention A-East--$1M
- Larose Navigational Lock System--$12M
And when the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority’s (CPRA) 2020 Master Plan came out earlier this year, Governor John Bell Edwards touted all the money GOMESA would fund for projects in south Louisiana.
“In the next 12 months alone, over $120 million in GOMESA revenues will be expended to help protect over 2 million Louisianans who live and work along our coast. These investments represent a proactive mindset by the State of Louisiana and CPRA, allowing us to better defend against a hurricane or natural disaster and showing the citizens of our state we cannot and will not wait on someone else to provide us the protection we deserve,” stated Gov. Edwards.
But under that plan, SLLD will only get $500,000 for E-North and D-South improvements, while New Orleans will get $14M, Grand Isle is set to receive $15M and Terrebonne $18M.
“The annual CPRA plan was not too kind to us, but I had a long discussion with Chip Kline (CPRA Chairman) and we think we’ll get a couple of things changed so we can finish our projects. With the right amount of money and within a couple of years, we can actually finish the construction we decided to do after Hurricane Katrina.”
The CPRA plan can be seen at: http://coastal.la.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/DRAFT-AP_FY2020-1.15.2019.pdf
Posted on Tue, February 26, 2019
by By Buster Avera Contributing Writer