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08 26, 2013 by Daily Comet
With Congress on vacation, it's campaign season on the bayou.
Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, will challenge Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu's bid for re-election next year, and both recently have visited Lafourche and Terrebonne to discuss how their election would benefit the area.
Reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program lead off their comments lately, but the two are also comparing their efforts to increase the state's share of revenue from offshore energy production.
“I know there is no other option,” Landrieu told the South Central Industrial Association last week. “The state of Louisiana cannot tax themselves to save the coast. We would bankrupt our businesses if we tried.
Gulf states get a smaller share in royalties from offshore production in federal waters off their coasts than what interior states receive from drilling within their borders, the two lawmakers say.
Landrieu compares Louisiana to Wyoming as an example. In 2011, Wyoming took some $1 billion of the $2.1 billion paid to the federal government by energy producers. Louisiana took only $26 million from the $5.7 billion sent to the federal government.
“The federal government takes six billion dollars off the end of (La. 1) every year. You'd think they could spend a few million dollars to build this road, but they refuse to do it,” Landrieu said.
The state is scheduled to see 37.5 percent of that money, up to $500 million annually, in 2017 as part of another issue championed by Landrieu in 2006.
Now, both Landrieu and Cassidy are selling their efforts to modify that schedule.
Landrieu's effort is called the FAIR Act. It would gradually lift the $500 million cap and allow the money to start flowing immediately. The money would be shared among coastal states and in Louisiana would be used for coastal restoration and protection, as well as repairs to infrastructure damaged by oil production.
“Failure is no option. I don't know if anybody knows where any other money is, but I don't. If we do not get this money, we cannot secure this coast and build the levees we need,” Landrieu said.
Landrieu mentioned the La. 1 project in south Lafourche and the state's $50 billion coastal master plan as targets for the money.
“Why would we have to share it? Because it would be virtually impossible for any member, Democrat, Republican or the Lord himself to pass a bill for one state. Impossible. We've designed this bill to bring enough votes to get this done,” Landrieu said.
“I sure wish it could pass,” joked Cassidy, speaking Aug. 15 to the Lafourche Chamber of Commerce. Cassidy said because's Landrieu's bill would immediately shift money from federal to state coffers, it will exacerbate the federal deficit and stall in the Republican-controlled House.
Members of the Obama administration have also signaled their disapproval of the effort.
Landrieu told the SCIA the seniority of the Gulf Coast delegation and the fact she will chair the Energy and Natural Resources Committee if reelected next year gives her hope the measure can pass.
“My No. 1 goal will be to use all the power I have for that chairmanship to make that happen because I know there is no other option,” Landrieu said.
Cassidy has seen some success with a similar push. His legislation would move the cap to $1 billion in 2023.
“The reason we do it 10 years off — the way the budget window works is the congressional budget office does not count it as a cost,” Cassidy said. “It is not the best, but, my gosh, eventually the money gets here.”
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