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Despite ‘Clout,’ Sen. Landrieu Fails to Get Offshore Drilling Bills Out of Committee

Three bills stalled to increase offshore production, revenue sharing

Mary Landrieu / AP
• July 9, 2014 10:00 am

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Democratic incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu (La.) has been unable to advance three pieces of legislation that would expand offshore drilling in her home state, despite assurances that increasing revenue sharing from energy production is her "number one goal."

Currently there is a $500 million annual limit on the amount of revenue from offshore production that Gulf States can share. A 2006 law, cosponsored by Landrieu, allowed states to begin sharing revenues in 2017, allotting 37.5 percent for Gulf States, including Louisiana.

Rep. Bill Cassidy (La.), Landrieu’s Republican challenger for her senate race this fall, cosponsored legislation that would lift the cap to $1 billion, and require the Secretary of Interior to begin leasing at least 50 percent of offshore lands available for production. Currently 85 percent of federal offshore acreage is "inaccessible" for drilling, due to moratoriums and reluctance by the government to issue permits.

The bill, which passed the House on June 26, included an amendment authored by Cassidy that lifted the cap. The amendment had also passed in an energy bill last June, though both bills await action in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which Landrieu chairs. A third bill, offered by Landrieu herself, also awaits a vote in the committee.

Landrieu supports eliminating the cap, and has worked to allow Gulf States to begin sharing revenue sooner than 2017. 

"As chair of this committee, it'll be my Number 1 goal to lift this cap," Landrieu said in April.

"If I could do what I did as a freshman member of the committee, I think I can deliver what we need as the chairman of the committee," she said. 

Landrieu cosponsored the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA), which passed in 2006 and imposed the $500 million cap. Prior to the law, states with offshore energy production were not able to share in revenues. Onshore energy-producing states can already keep 50 percent of royalties.

The Louisiana Democrat offered an amendment in 2011 that would have sped up the timeline for Gulf States to begin receiving revenue in 2015, but a vote was denied by then-Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D., N.M.).

She also offered legislation, along with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska), that would gradually increase the $500 million cap, and allow Gulf States to begin collecting revenues immediately. The bill, Fixing America's Inequities with Revenues (FAIR) Act of 2013, has languished in Landrieu’s committee since March 2013.

Cassidy’s revenue-sharing amendment was referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last July, as part of the Offshore Energy and Jobs Act of 2013.

The bill would mandate the administration conduct new leasing for offshore drilling. President Obama offered 15 lease sales as part of his 5-year plan for offshore energy production in 2012, the lowest number of lease sales ever offered. Offshore drilling has decreased by 13 percent since Obama took office in 2009, according to the Congressional Research Service.

The bill was projected to generate $1.5 billion in new revenue over 10 years and create up to 1.2 million jobs. The legislation was also in line with Landrieu’s FAIR Act in allowing coastal states to receive 37.5 percent of revenue.

Cassidy sent a letter to Landrieu asking her to take up the legislation in April.

"In the spirit of working in a bipartisan and bicameral fashion … I urge you to take up and consider the Offshore Energy and Jobs Act as soon as possible," he said.

The amendment again passed last month after being attached to a similar energy bill, the "Lowering Gasoline Prices to Fuel an America That Works Act."

A major selling point for Landrieu’s reelection campaign has been the "clout" she brings as chair of the Senate Energy Committee. She has said she has "tremendous influence" at the committee level.

On Monday, Landrieu held a hearing in Lafayette, La., to urge for more offshore production. She called for speeding up the permitting process, deregulation, and expanding revenue sharing for coastal states.

Cassidy’s Senate campaign was quick to criticize the hearing as a publicity stunt.

"Louisianans want results, not just media events," Cassidy’s campaign spokesman John Cummins, said in a statement. "If Sen. Landrieu were actually serious about this issue, she would call for a vote on Dr. Cassidy's revenue sharing amendment which has already passed the House (twice) and has been referred to her committee (twice)."

"This hearing is another example of Sen. Landrieu trying to generate positive media coverage for herself to distract from her ineffectiveness in standing up to Harry Reid's anti-energy leadership," the campaign said. "There are already bills that address revenue sharing that have already passed the U.S. House of Representative and are awaiting action in the Senate."

Requests for comment from Landrieu’s senate office were not returned.