Statement by Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco
For the first time in the history of Louisiana we have proven that when it comes to oil and gas development off our coast, it is no longer business as usual.
For more than 50 years, we have said "yes" - time and time again - to the Federal government when it comes to Outer Continental Shelf activities.
We have cooperated at every turn to produce the energy to fuel our great American economy.
We have said "yes" to environmentally responsible LNG.
We have said "yes" to the Offshore Oil Port that accounts for 13% of the nation's foreign oil.
We have said "yes" to a vast pipeline and distribution system that feeds our sister state, only to find ourselves taken for granted by our Federal partners.
But because we have had the courage to fight, Because we have had the courage to play hardball, Because we have had the courage to take the facts to the Federal judicial system and state our case, We are now in a position to send a clear message that there is a new day dawning in Louisiana.
And that new day means - because of our success in forging an historic agreement, this generation and future generations of Louisianans will never be taken for granted again when it comes to the Federal government's energy development on our coast.
As you will recall, I filed a lawsuit last July on behalf of the people of Louisiana, asking to enjoin the next offshore lease sale until meaningful environmental review was done by MMS-one that took into account the coastal impacts of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
I promised the people of this state that I would fight for us to have a voice in our own destiny. I demanded the Federal Government do the right thing.
I demanded through this lawsuit they not be allowed to get away with a cookie cutter environmental assessment that ignored the devastation to our coast during the 2005 hurricane season.
In fact, a sister agency to MMS inside the U.S. Department of Interior, the U.S. Geological Survey, just released a report saying 217 square miles of Louisiana's coast was turned into open water by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
So, it is abundantly clear that a lot has changed on our coast and all of those changes must be considered by MMS.
And that is what the Court indicated back in August, when it said that the State was likely to prevail on the merits of its claims and it set the matter for an expedited hearing.
Since that time, as requested by the Court, Louisiana and the Federal government have continued to work in good faith to resolve this suit before the trial date set for November 13.
And today, I'm pleased to announce - we have successfully resolved the lawsuit. For the first time in this State's history, in an unprecedented agreement, the Federal government has agreed to delay future offshore lease sales until a complete environmental analysis is done. One that takes into account the effects of Katrina and Rita, as well as the cumulative impacts of offshore leasing activity on Louisiana's coastal zone.
In addition, until the MMS has completed its complete environmental analysis, no exploration plan will even be allowed on Western Gulf Lease Sale 200, which was held in August of this year, until each plan reflects an appropriate environmental analysis and approved by the state.
This is an historic victory for Louisiana and for all states whose voices deserve to be heard in matters of their own destiny.
I want to thank Attorney General Foti and his entire legal team, as well as our Washington DC attorneys, for reaching this significant turning point. I am so proud of our team!
Louisiana has been an honest partner with the American people for decades. As I've said many times before - this fight is not with the oil and gas industry - it is with the Federal government.
For decades, we have provided the necessary onshore support for the delivery of our nation's energy. Thousands of miles of pipeline crisscross our coast and deliver nearly a third of America's oil and gas supply.
Our disappearing wetlands protect these critical resources and our nation's economic and energy security depends on Louisiana.
But a true partnership is a two-way street. This victory will ensure that our State has a real seat at the table, controlling our own fate as the Federal Government's number one offshore energy partner - the heart of America's Energy Coast.
Now I turn to a different, but related issue.
Some continue to ask me if this lawsuit is really about money - if it is really about oil and gas revenues.
I have been clear and I will say it again: this law suit and this agreement are about States' rights and ensuring that the Federal government abandons its "business-as-usual" approach and recognize the serious impacts to Louisiana's coast from offshore oil and gas leasing.
Are my efforts on this front consistent with our efforts to secure a share of offshore oil and gas revenues? You bet they are! And here's how:
The President just this month gave a speech at a Renewable Energy Conference in St. Louis and - and I quote -
"I believe states ought to share in the royalties because I know, in the state of Louisiana, for example, they have committed their share of new royalties in this new exploration to help protect their coastline. I believe Congress needs to get the bill to my desk as quick as possible. So when you finish the elections, get back and let me sign this bill so the American people know we're serious about getting off foreign oil."
So now we know the President has publicly acknowledged that we have done our part.
The people of Louisiana have made the commitment and by a margin of 82%, voted to constitutionally dedicate every penny the state receives from offshore revenue sharing to coastal protection and restoration!
As your governor, I have succeeded in getting the Federal government to agree to do meaningful environment assessment and have ensured our state has a voice in drilling off our coast.
The Judicial Branch has strongly suggested that proper environmental analysis is necessary.
The Executive Branch has now signed off on revenue sharing.
And even this week - the New York Times flipped positions and endorsed the senate version of the revenue sharing bill now pending in Congress, so momentum is building.
No More Excuses! It is now time for the Legislative Branch to do its job. It's time for Congress to pass a revenue sharing bill that will allow us to get on with the business of restoring our coast and protecting the communities that support this country's offshore energy supply.
I know our delegation continues to fight hard to get the Congress to reconcile the two revenue sharing bills pending before them.
But the fact of the matter is - those issues stalling passage of a final bill have nothing at all to do with Louisiana.
But Louisiana's urgent situation has everything to do with the rest of the country and its energy and economic security. So I call once again on our delegation to push Congress even harder and I ask them to carry this message back to their colleagues:
If the decision makers in Washington did not understand the urgency and seriousness of my actions before, they should now. As your governor, I will use all the tools available to me to continue to fight to protect our coast.
Louisiana is facing a crisis that affects the entire nation and we cannot be held hostage by the politics of a national energy debate that has little to do with our disappearing coast and our threatened culture. Every challenge we face in the recovery and rebuilding of Louisiana is intimately tied to whether we can achieve long term protection from future storms and a sustainable coastal landscape that gives the nation its fisheries, wildlife habitat and protection for Federal navigation routes and critical energy infrastructure.
These storms have strengthened our resolve as a people and have renewed the idea that a restored and protected Louisiana coast is fundamental to our future. Like the President said, Louisiana is an honest and accountable partner on this issue and can be trusted with the resources necessary to restore and protect this coast.
To view today's press conference, click here
http://69! .2.43.89/video_archives/OCS_ OIL_ GAS_ LEASING_PRESS_CONF.wmv
The Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation
Louisiana's Fund for Louisiana's People
www.louisianahelp.org 1-877-HELPLA1 (877-435-7521)