There’s a small town little ways north of my hometown of Shreveport, LA. This small town is named Oil City, and it was founded as a flag stop along the Kansas City Southern Railroad. It was once called Ananias. Most of the settlers were fisherman, trappers, and farmers. Some of the settlers harvested the freshwater pearls after they were discovered in mussels in 1909. In 1895, Ananias along with Surrey and Caddo City, were absorbed into Oil City, whose name represents what Louisiana is well known for.
Sure we have the parades during Mardi Gras and Carnival, we have festivals and great food, but we also have toxic air, and although Cancer Alley is mostly along the southern portion of the Mississippi, north Louisiana also has its fair share of oil refineries that pollute the air. Make no doubt about it: Louisiana is an oil state.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), my home state has 17 oil refineries, which account for almost one-fifth of the nation’s refining capacity and process around 3.4 million barrels of crude oil daily. Some other quick facts from the EIA are noted below, taken from its website.
- Louisiana is one of the top five states in both natural gas production and proved reserves. The state accounted for 9% of U.S. total marketed gas production in 2020 and has about 8% of the nation’s gas reserves.
- In 2020, Louisiana’s two liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals shipped out about 55% of U.S. total LNG exports.
- Louisiana’s total energy consumption and per capita energy consumption both rank among the top three states in the nation, largely because of its energy-intensive chemical, petroleum, and natural gas industries.
- Louisiana has the highest per capita residential sector electricity consumption in the nation. More than 6 in 10 Louisiana households rely on electric heating and almost all households have air conditioning.
My mother always said that Louisianans would intentionally vote for the worst politician so we wouldn’t be surprised when they did something illegal. So, it comes as no shock to me that Louisiana is pushing a bill that, if made into law, would make my state a sanctuary for fossil fuels.
Sanctuary State For Fossil Fuels
An article from The Guardian opened up describing a very familiar place to me — south of Oil City. Shreveport, where my first job was working in a casino restaurant, is cited as having some of the most toxic air in the country. Oil refineries that are owned by Calumet and UOP have contributed to my hometown’s toxic emissions, according to the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory. I believe it — after all, I had the onset of asthma at age 14, and it doesn’t even run in my family. Could be random, could be caused by toxic air.
Louisiana Representative Danny McCormick (Republican) introduced a bill that would protect oil companies, not residents in his district who have to breathe this air. The bill aims to establish Louisiana as a “fossil fuel sanctuary state” and ban local and state employees from enforcing federal laws and regulations that negatively impact petrochemical companies. This is so messed up, but I am not surprised.
McCormick said that the inspiration for the bill came after President Biden began placing new restrictions on oil and gas companies. Those restrictions include a pause on new oil and gas leases on federal lands and waters. “Look at what they did to the coal industry,” he said, while speaking at a Louisiana house committee hearing. “We already know what the game plan is. They already picked off coal. Now they’re going after oil and gas.” (Technically, coal declined massively under the Trump years.)
What he didn’t touch upon was that, in 2012, the global mortality rate based on energy source put coal far ahead at #1 (in a bad way). The death rate from coal power was estimated at around 100,000 deaths per terawatt-hour. The death rate was based on mining extraction operations and the actual burning of coal. So, yes, coal had to go. And, yes, fossil fuels have to go. This is why it’s so critical we embrace renewables.
McCormick’s Ties To The Oil Industry
Before becoming a legislator, McCormick, who owns M&M Oil in Oil City, was a member of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, which is an industry lobbying group. So, in essence, we have a representative trying to protect his own business as well as those of others in his industry. According to ShaleXP, M&M Oil owns several actively producing oil wells, mostly in Caddo Parish and some in Texas.
Some key data points for M&M Oil include:
- Operating states: LA, TX
- Production Dates: August 1994 — May 2021
- Total Oil Production: 1,028,448 barrels of oil (BBLs)
- Total Gas Production: 423,544 thousand cubic feet (MCF)
- Estimated Daily Oil Production: 96 BBLs
- Estimated Daily Gas Production: 0 MCF
- Estimated Daily Water Production: 0 BBLs
- Producing Wells: 47.
Concerns Over McCormick’s Proposed Legislation
In an interview with The Guardian, Velma White, 71, who lives in McCormick’s district is very concerned about the proposed legislation. “It’s going to hurt the people,” she said about the bill. “I don’t think it’s right to the people.” She also lives a block away from Calumet Shreveport Refining and believes that her family’s health problems were caused by air emissions from the plant. Her daughter was diagnosed with renal failure at a young age and her husband and sisters have also had health problems. Of the refinery, she said, “They have literally put me and my family through hell,” and added, “I know there ought to be somebody who cares about the people’s lives.”
The article also detailed her horror story. Some of the things she went through due to this refinery included a miscarriage, nausea, and breathing problems. She was offered $2,500 to settle her 20-year-old claim against the oil companies in January of this year. “That’s what they offered me,” she said. “I’m just dumbfounded.” She had a miscarriage and they offered her $2,500. Let that sink in — these oil companies don’t care about the health of the people.
The Bill Was Tabled But Still Has Support
The bill was tabled due to concerns regarding the current language’s potential to cause the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to revoke the state’s authority to enforce federal rules. However, the Chairman of the Louisiana House Natural Resources and the Environment Committee, Jean-Paul P. Coussan (R-Lafayette), gave his support. He said that he would work with McCormick to resolve issues with the bill that could give the federal government more power over oil and gas companies in Louisiana.
“You’re not going to find a bigger support of oil and gas in his legislature than maybe you and I,” Coussan said to McCormick at the committee hearing. “We can tighten this up so all our oil and gas constituents can be proud of the bill. The intent is to help industry not to end up in court just for a headline.”
Featured photo taken by Johnna Crider. (View of the Red River and Bossier City, LA, from the Shreveport side).