A brave Louisiana legislator has a plan to protect poor, helpless fossil fuels by offering up his state as a safe space where they can be dug up, refined, and burned free from judgment (and government regulation).
Republican Rep. Danny McCormick, who hails from the town of Oil City (yes, that’s its real name), introduced House Bill 617 last week in an attempt to make Louisiana a “fossil fuel sanctuary state.” The measure would essentially create a loophole for all federal oil and gas regulations by prohibiting local, parish, and state officials from enforcing them within state lines. That includes restrictions on oil and gas extraction, limitations on the use or sale of fossil fuels, and also all taxes or fees that could negatively impact dirty energy companies. Finally, someone is thinking of Big Oil!
McCormick, who happens to own an oil company, told a Louisiana ABC affiliate that the bill is important in light of the “craziness coming out of Washington attacking the fossil fuel industry.” In McCormick’s case, “craziness” is the Biden administration’s slowly evolving plan to gradually wind down the fossil fuel industry.
Perversely—er, nobly—the act’s language was inspired by other municipalities’ sanctuary city designations that resisted cruel federal immigration policies, according to NOLA.com. Under those measures, city and state lawmakers codified their commitments not to hand over undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers to authorities to be deported. Very reasonable and totally comparable to protecting one of the nation’s most destructive industries that will be culpable for impending climate catastrophe if we don’t wind it down.
In all seriousness, this absurd proposal is the latest move from Republican state officials since Biden entered office that attempts to shield entrenched fossil fuel interests from future federal regulations. In March, 21 Republican attorneys general (including Louisiana’s), sued the Biden administration, arguing that its decision to revoke a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline would be unconstitutional, A Grist investigation found the move was sparked by the nefarious industry-backed American Legislative Exchange Council. That same month, Texas legislators introduced a bill to blacklist companies that “boycott” fossil fuels. Before that, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed an executive order in June to deploy state powers to challenge national climate policy. McCormick’s proposal goes even further than these other measures by not only attempting to overturn federal regulations but effectively nullifying them on the state level.
McCormick’s proposal comes as Louisiana’s oil and gas industry attempts to recover from the historic drop in fuel demand brought on by covid-19 restrictions. In the past year, fossil fuel companies have laid off 7,500 workers in the state.
“The question is: How will we replace all those jobs if the fossil fuel industry is destroyed?” he told NOLA.com. “Nobody’s been able to answer that.”
Except this question has, in fact, been answered numerous times. The Biden administration itself has answered how climate policy could lead to a jobs boom. A report published just last week shows how plugging abandoned wells could be a perfect match between oil workers’ skills and climate needs. A just transition is catching on as a way to preserve workers’ livelihoods and protect the climate. In Louisiana, there are other major concerns to worry about when it comes to climate change like sea level rise, which is itself largely a product of the energy industry’s greenhouse gas emissions.
It’s not clear the bill will even get a hearing—experts told NOLA.com that it’s so vague as to be totally unenforceable. But it is clear there’s plenty of work that actually needs getting done instead of just trying to create a safe space for the industry. Maybe McCormick could give that a try instead.