Welcome to Louisiana lefty, a podcast about politics and community in Louisiana, where we make the case that the health of the state requires a strong progressive movement fueled by the critical work of organizing on the ground. Our goal is to democratize information, demystify party politics, and empower you to join the mission, because victory for Louisiana requires you.
I'm your host, Lynda Woolard. This episode is the first of a two part interview with Logan Atkinson Burke, the executive director of the Alliance for Affordable energy. I have to give you a fair warning. We nerd out as we wind our way through topics like the governor's Climate Initiative Task Force, the bipartisan infrastructure plan, Build Back Better, Green New Deal... But if we're being honest, energy issues affect almost every aspect of our daily lives. And for those of us living in the Gulf South, it's a next level impact on individuals, communities, cities, ecosystems, and frankly, the entire state of Louisiana.
Logan Burke, thank you so much for joining me on Louisiana Lefty.
Oh, thank you, Lynda. I am a proud lefty here in Louisiana.
Lovely, lovely. Well, I always start the podcast with how I know my guest. And you reminded me that we met on your radio show at WTUL.
That's absolutely right. I think it was five or six years ago now. Back when my predecessor Casey DeMoss had a radio show for the Allianc at Tulane, WTUL. Casey had you on to learn about what IWO (Independent Women's Organization) was up to and what was going on at the legislature. And I was there to learn the nuts and bolts of both radio and the legislature at the same time. So I'm grateful that our paths continue to across.
Very good. Well, we also both received awards from the New Orleans Coalition. I think that was 2018.
And I believe it was supposed to be an annual award. But like so many things, COVID kind of reared its head and put a monkey wrench into their plans. But I received the Felicia Kahn Citizenship Award. And on that same night, you were recognized with their Activist Award for your for your work with the Alliance for Affordable Energy.
Yeah. And and that awards ceremony was really a powerful one because I learned yet again, how important the Alliance for Affordable Energy has been in New Orleans since its inception, and all of the relationships that go from Gayle Gagliano, and Karen Wimpleberg, and Gary Groesch, of course, and the League of Women Voters, and all of these these organizations and incredible people who have been pushing for change and for a better place all these years. And I'm just honored to to continue to learn about the history of all that.
And I do just want to acknowledge there were two other awards given out that night, a Legislative Award to J.P. Morrell and an Emerging Leader Award to Juan Serrano.
I just wanted to make sure I name checked them while we're talking about awards. Well, Logan, tell me about your political origin story. What got you initially involved in politics and activism?
Oh, Lynda. This is actually not a story. I've told so many people. I was living in Los Angeles back in the in the pre Obama years. And I was really disheartened that a lot of my friends did not have equal access to the rights of marriage. I was angry about it, I'll be really honest. So a couple of my friends and I got together and we created an organization. It was my first kind of feat into both politics and policy and how all these things fit together. The organization was Committed to Equality, and we created a ring campaign. We had some black stainless steel rings made, wedding band style, and the intention, for both allies and for the LGBTQ community, was to open conversations, because this kind of jewelry was fairly unusual at that time. And we got really involved in organizations like the Trevor Project and others that offer incredible support to those communities in California. And so when, when I left L.A., I started looking for organizations I could get involved with here in Louisiana, and I was really interested in the deep root causes of some the kind of the big problems that I saw. I had real culture shock when I moved back to the South. I grew up in Alabama, and then, you know, moved around and came back to the South. And I saw how many of Louisiana's big both very short term and long term problems that impact people were rooted in both energy and racism, frankly. And I started looking for organizations that were committed to solutions, that were looking to how do we get down to the root causes and solutions for these problems? And I found this organization, the Alliance for Affordable Energy, and I called up and I said, "Can I work with you guys in some way as a volunteer?" And it really began there. I started as basically a volunteer, almost an intern for four months, and just fell headlong into energy policy. I am a deep nerd and love nothing more than research. And basically, I said, "You know, I want to give as much of my time as I can." And then I realized, "You know, I gotta, I gotta pay the bills." And I was really fortunate that the organization was willing to find a little money to keep me on. And that was in 2013. And here I am.
Still today, and you're leading that organization.
And now I lead the joint. Yeah. Since 2017, I've been the executive director.
Well, what is the mission of the Alliance for Affordable Energy? And what do you mean when you say affordable?
Yeah, the Alliance for Affordable Energy is committed to equitable, affordable and environmentally responsible energy systems. And what we mean by affordability is, although it includes the bill that you receive at the end of the month on your power bill, your gas bill, for your home energy, but also, what does that energy system cost all of us? For example, what does it cost you in health bills if you live next to a coal plant, or a gas compression system? What does it cost Louisiana to have an energy system that is ravaging our wetlands, both on a short term timescale from cutting through our wetlands for our energy, our fossil fuel pipeline systems and so forth? And in terms of climate change, what is this costing us all? And are those costs manageable? Are they balanced? Are they equitable? Who's bearing those costs and why? And so we really think much more broadly about it than just, you know, what is the cost per kilowatt hour? And part of the reason for that is, you know, Louisiana, you may be aware, has some of the "lowest energy rates." And for those of you who are listening, and because, you know, this is a podcast, I'm using big fat air quotes when I say rates, because per kilowatt hour, per little measurement of electrons or electricity, we're low, we're near the bottom in the country. But because we waste so much electricity, we are the highest energy user of electricity in the country. In our homes, we use 30% more electricity in our homes than the average American household. That means our bills are not the lowest and they are certainly not affordable. People get really sick of me talking about Energy Efficiency, but that's why we start there with every conversation. We've got to deal with the fact that we are wasting electricity. We are heating and cooling, our attics and our crawl spaces and our front porches, because we've got beautiful but leaky housing stock. And so, we really need to deal with that first, because it also comes back to, talking about the, the the mitigation side of the climate coin, reducing the emissions profile as a result of reducing energy waste. But it's also about adaptation. We know now that even if we were to abandon fossil fuels entirely tomorrow, we've got heating baked in to our planet. We know it will continue to get hotter, it will continue to get more humid, and those things impact health. And so we have to be thinking about how do we acknowledge what is happening, and use the tools that we have to address that to protect people.
As a side note on the affordability piece, I was just seeing that, at least in New Orleans, I don't know if this is statewide, that they make an inordinate amount of money on late fees.
Oh, Lynda, ah, we have been trying to deal with this for a couple of years now. We did some deep digging into this late fee problem about three years ago, and saw that it's because of a a long standing poverty problem in our state. Just as the cycle of evictions winds up being a consistent housing problem, a cycle of disconnections, and reconnections and late fees is a long standing problem in our state for households. And the answer to that is not how do we move more money to just pay off bills? The answer to that has to be how do you cut it off at the pass? Which is how do you insulate? I like to say how do you teach a house to fish? Which is to say how do you stop it at the beginning, and, and solve this problem where people are? And so, you know, we've got a lot to deal with on, not just the energy waste issue, but this cycle of energy burdens. There are nearly 150,000 Louisiana households, not just individuals, that's households that are paying around 20 to 23% of their energy just to their household energy costs per year. That is absurd. And that includes these extreme late fees that these utilities are acquiring from them. What this means is that then the utilities like to say, "Well, now that's revenue that we use to put up against the revenues that we need to collect from all other customers." But what that really means is that low income customers, those of us living on the margins, paycheck to paycheck, are subsidizing the rest of us with their late fees and those revenues. They're really padding that bottom line, so that the rest of us have these, "lower energy rates," and that is deeply inequitable and unjust.
It certainly is. Well, when we spoke earlier, I asked you about some of the groups you work with and who they are. Can you name check a few of the big ones for me? I've seen frequently y'all post about the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice. I know that's one of them. And you mentioned on the video that we're posting to Facebook how environmental justice and racial justice are very connected.
Yes, they're deeply intertwined. So we also recognize how many, shall we say intersections there are among lots of the the problems that families deal with on a day to day basis, and that's housing so we work very closely with the Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance. We recognize that institutions of faith are also some of those that are having to pay these high energy bills, because people on the edge are unable to pay them. So we're working, for example, with Together New Orleans and Together Louisiana. We also work with the Sierra Club and the Gulf Coast Center for Law and Policy. There's one sort of collaborative that I think is really important for New Orleans that grew out of a power plant fight called the Energy Future New Orleans Coalition. And we cheekily refer to it as EF NO. Remember, we were fighting a power plant at the time. And that group has included VAYLA, which is a community based organization in the Vietnamese community, but also the Greater New Orleans Interfaith Climate Coalition, and Audubon Louisiana. I mean, there are loads of organizations, both here locally and nationally that have been working through this Energy Future New Orleans coalition since 2016. But that's a hyperlocal one. There's also a regional network that we work quite closely with: the Gulf South for a Green New Deal. This is an effort that works across state lines, and even now includes Puerto Rico. All of the states, and not quite a state of Puerto Rico, that touch the Gulf of Mexico are part of this network. And we are advocates working on all of the things that can really lift up people, workers, lift us out of and move us away from the the impacts of climate change, and transition this region and lead the way. There's so much work to be done to deal with the structures that have gotten us here, that have harmed so many of us, and we think there's real power in working regionally. And so Louisiana itself has a hub, which is made up of over 66 organizations and individuals working together. That includes Healthy Gulf, and, newly, the Descendants Project out of the River Parishes and and we work to come up with really how we're going to work together. So for example, some of these things are involved with the legislature, some with the Public Service Commission. Then as we're working regionally, we're also connected with the folks in Mississippi, for example, who also deal with Entergy on a regular basis as their utility provider. So we know that Entergy is working across state lines, now we have to work across state lines.
Well, I can easily do two episodes with you, with all the questions I have. But when I asked you what you'd like to talk about, the first thing you mentioned was the governor's Climate Initiatives Task Force. It's going to have a meeting between now and when the episode comes out. But for folks who are not up to speed on this task force, can you give a Cliff's Notes version of what it was created to do?
I feel like I know there's something about a net zero climate plan and three pillars of Louisiana climate change, but if you can maybe fill people in who might not know about it, that'd be great.
Sure. So in the fall of 2020, Governor John Bel Edwards released a couple of executive orders. One of them was to create a Climate Initiatives Task Force, with the purpose of coming up with a plan, a direction for how Louisiana could get to "Net Zero" by 2050. Now, Net Zero, suggests that not only would we be reducing emissions from the sources, but the net includes capturing emissions. So for example, already, our wetlands are one of the most powerful sequestration locations of carbon dioxide in the country. Our wetlands are incredibly powerful at this. So are forests. So can be regenerative agriculture, if we're actually planting and using the land properly. The task force over the course of about a year and change came together. It's representatives, some from the oil and gas industry, some from agencies like the Department of Environmental Quality and Natural Resources, and then some advocates, for example, those from Foundation for Louisiana, Colette Pichon Battle, who led the equity working group for the task force. I think there are over 120 individuals who worked on on various pieces of the taskforce, ranging from the task force itself to advisory groups to sector working groups. I myself was on the power sector working group, really focused in on the power sector, how we think about where our electricity is coming from and so forth.
Back on January 31, this task force presented what they refer to as a plan that would take the state toward Net Zero by 2050. You may notice the way I called it, "They refer to it as a plan." I would argue, it's a report, and it's a menu, as opposed to marching orders. To me the difference is, this document does not include: we should do this first, and then this first, and then this first, righ? There's no kind of loading order, if you will. And this particular plan also doesn't bring it down to: this action would reduce emissions by X amount, or this particular action by Y amount. It doesn't get into any of that. But it does come up with a significant list of of things that we can do here in our state, ranging from a renewable portfolio standard, which would take us to 100% clean and renewable electricity. It also includes things like weatherization in our homes and buildings, and land use as I described, regenerative agriculture, and then it also gets into what the report refers to as clean hydrogen.
Now, the big problem in Louisiana, is that the bulk - two thirds - of our emissions come from the industrial sector. That's very unusual. Most states, it'll be a third from industrial, a third from residential or electric, a third from commercial. Ours is two thirds industrial. And this is what I mean when I say Louisiana has been treated like a sacrifice zone. Our industrial emissions are here, in part, because many other states have said we don't want them. And unfortunately, you know, we have been wide open for those polluting businesses. But that means that we've got a real task in front of us to deal with those.
Now, many of those emissions can be dealt with by electrifying those industrial processes. But not all of them can. A lot of them need very high heat. And that means some of them will require, potentially using hydrogen, hydrogen that can be burned at those high heats that these processes need. The question on the table is, what is meant by clean hydrogen? This is a question that the Biden administration is kind of grappling with, and so are administrations all around the world. Because there are lots of different ways at getting at hydrogen. Traditionally here in in the US, hydrogen has come from "gray hydrogen," or it comes from using natural gas. And it's an incredibly polluting process. Another kind of hydrogen that has been in the news recently, as a result of a newly announced facility in the Laplace area is a "blue hydrogen." Now blue hydrogen uses natural gas to get to hydrogen, but the promise of it is that it also can capture and sequester those emissions that I talked about. The difficulty is, and this is where I and my organization and many that I'm working with would disagree with the the governor's plan, the difficulty is that that carbon capture and sequestration has not been proven at scale. It simply has been a promise of industry for three to four decades now. And unfortunately, that carbon capture and sequestration simply has not ever lived up to its promise. And unfortunately, what we've seen, for example, in Mississippi last year is that the pipelines that are required to move that captured carbon can impact life and health. There was a pipeline blowout in Mississippi, in 2020, that caused some real damage to folks. And so we're very concerned that if Louisiana really leans into blue hydrogen, that we are setting ourselves up for yet another kind of dumping ground situation.
What we are excited about, though, in this plan are the recommendations to move to things like electrification, energy efficiency, even potentially "green hydrogen" that uses renewable energy to use water as the basis of that hydrogen, which is a cleaner enterprise. We think that is a better direction for the state. I've been rambling, so I'm gonna give you a minute here.
It's a lot, but it's really good information. What happens next with this task force and their suggestions? And I guess more importantly, who has the authority to implement their suggestions, their plan?
Oh, boy. Yeah. So the next step is, "Ok, how do we how do we implement it? How do we get the dollars to do it? What part of it lives in directions from or resource allocation from the legislature?" I'll be honest, a huge piece of this hinges on the Louisiana Public Service Commission, because the bulk of the electrification gains, the renewable resource gains, even green hydrogen would depend, again, on those renewables being available. That lives directly and squarely in the lap of the Public Service Commission. Now, a lot of people aren't familiar with the Public Service Commission. There are five elected individuals. This year in in 2022, two of those five seats are open for election. That means districts three and four are both up this fall for election. And that's a big percentage of the number of people.
What parts of the state are those districts in?
Great question. District three includes part of New Orleans, it moves through Cancer Alley through the River Parishes, it follows the Mississippi River, and then part of Baton Rouge. District four is really what I like to call the heel and the center of the boot. So it's Lake Charles, it moves over into St. Mary Parish, kind of scoops under Lafayette, and then scoops up to Alexandria, and over to Many. Those parts of the state.
Okay. So Public Service Commission. Let's revisit that in a little bit. I want to talk a little bit more about this task force before we move forward. How do the governor's climate goals fit in with the work of the Biden administration and the bipartisan infrastructure plan that passed? And are there things that would be helped with Build Back Better, which has been obstructed so far?
Absolutely. So I'll start with the the infrastructure bill. This was the what a lot of people were calling the bipartisan infrastructure bill, it now has a longer more formal sounding name. But the the purpose of that infrastructure bill largely is transit, the electrical grid, some of it is infrastructure around our water systems, things like getting the lead out of our pipes, but even resilience, water management, those kinds of things. And so basically, everything I just said, is desperately needed in Louisiana. Now, portions of that infrastructure bill, our dollars that will, through a series of formulas just come straight to the state, and the governor and the various agencies and potentially the legislature will make decisions about how those dollars are spent. But the bulk of those dollars are actually grant programs, public private partnership programs. They're competitive. And so what is going to be vital is that the governor and the various agencies in the state that should be lining up and preparing for this, really connect these dots.
Keep in mind that the the leader of this infrastructure bill is Mitch Landrieu, who is very much a Louisiana man. Keep in mind also that the Biden administration put forward a a goal of Justice 40 to spend 40% of all of this climate and infrastructure spending in overburdened and underserved communities. So if we are to really put these dollars to use, if we are to be competitive, we have the opportunity to leverage the work of the Climate Task Force to say, look at this work that we now want to build on, we need to bring it into our applications and our planning for this infrastructure money that we need to all go after. And by all I mean, state agencies, municipalities, some are even available for for community based organizations. And so these are building blocks. We've got the task force. We have made very clear within that report of the task force that equity is a problem. We've got real overburdened communities that we need to address and support. And so we should be very well situated to get these dollars and really use them properly, to help people in their homes, both stay in their homes, if necessary, improve their homes, lift their homes. There are all kinds of things that that we can be moving on from that infrastructure bill, including, for example, making our electric system more resilient.
Now, you may be aware that in the last two years, Louisianans have basically amassed storm debt of around $5 billion. That's a lot of money. And some of that money, frankly, is down to the fact that we hadn't prepared, right? If we had a more resilient system, would it have to be put back in kind, right? And so because there is money expressly devoted to building resilient power grids within this infrastructure bill, we have an opportunity to say, "Let's plan for it. Let's go get that competitive money. And let's make our energy infrastructure more resilient and ready for what is coming." To the point that you asked about, the Build Back Better plan, those are huge opportunities that so far appear - and and I don't want to jinx it, since this isn't going to come out until April - but appear to be stalled. Huge dollars, over half a trillion dollars in climate and energy spending, are just tied up in that Build Back Better, many of which include things like climate and environmental justice, development block grants. Some of us are familiar with community development block grants or CDBG dollars. Those often come down after a storm or are used from HUD to build affordable housing. But these kinds of programs that are in the Build Back Better bill that are devoted expressly to climate justice, those have been held up, and and could be put to use to make our homes more weatherized, to put more solar and energy storage into homes to make them more ready for these power outages that we're experiencing. So there's a lot there that we're leaving on the table. And that's a real shame, because Louisiana really could use those dollars.
And these efforts for renewables and clean power, like general infrastructure, they're also pretty big job creators, right?
Oh, Lynda, the jobs! I feel like the the the jobs piece of this is very often lost in a lot of the rhetoric around a Green New Deal. But if you if you take a step back and pluck the word green off the front of it, you just remember how important the original New Deal, with it many of its flaws, including racial inequities, was. But the original New Deal was really all about putting Americans back to work. To bring it back to how do we address the largest challenges of our time, which include an energy transition in order to protect ourselves from the realities and the dangers of climate change, and to put people to work in good paying jobs to do that, these are jobs that It cannot be shipped over overseas. These are jobs that must be done in our communities. And they even include things as simple and maybe not so obvious as designing, installing and maintaining heating and cooling systems in our homes. You know, these are things that, if we're not preparing, if we're not training folks for these jobs, then we aren't going to get the benefits from these programs. We're going to continue to waste inordinate amounts of electricity as our world continues to heat. And we're not going to put people to work in great jobs. You know, I really like to think about, for example, weatherization. It takes local hands to put new windows in and insulate a home. It takes people who know the community and know what parts of the neighborhoods are really experiencing the largest energy burdens, to really target that and make that work all across the board. This is why I get so excited about energy because it touches every part of our lives, especially in Louisiana, and is really the the foundation of tremendous opportunity for so much of us who have been left out of the traditional energy economy here.
I know there's already solar farms in Louisiana that we're getting jobs from. Do we have wind power here yet?
We do not currently have wind power in Louisiana. However, we have a tremendous opportunity to be first, in the very short term, the anchor of the offshore wind supply chain already. America cannot build offshore wind without Louisianans expertise. That includes lift boat operators, includes the the folks who build and fabricate these footings for offshore wind in here in New Orleans, and even includes people making the components that go into a wind turbine. I say the short term, and I bring that up right now, because offshore wind in the Gulf of Mexico is probably about eight to ten years out. It takes a while to vision, develop, lease that land, do the transmission that's necessary to move that power to the land. But that's really what we have a huge opportunity to do. And it's been great to see that the governor really has made a play for Louisiana to be that energy offshore wind leader in the country. Our best bets to access onshore wind are actually from the interior of our country. Onshore, Louisiana doesn't have a ton of great wind resources. But there are Louisianans already benefiting from onshore wind that's in Oklahoma, and Texas, that are part of these energy markets that stretch over many states. And so for example, some of the folks that live in the Shreveport area are already receiving really cheap wind resources from other states. But the point that you make is that here in Louisiana, we have amazing solar resources, if only we build them. And so we really need to do that, and build our local expertise in building that, because unfortunately, right now, a lot of the large scale solar systems that are being built in our state come from out of state labor.
And is personal rooftop solar the answer to our power outage issues, like we experienced in hurricane Ida?
Rooftop solar, along with battery backup, is a piece of the solution. I am never a person who says that we've got a silver bullet for anything. We're really dealing with a complicated issue. And so we're dealing with silver buckshot, if you will. That means that we need to pair solar and storage with energy efficiency. Because when the power goes out, we don't want to be, you know, wasting all of that electricity that we're generating right on site. We want to use it wisely. And so we need to be thinking about how we live and where we work in holistic ways that think about and use more modern energy technologies like solar like battery backup. Even things like, you might not think about it, but your hot water heater, if it's the kind that's got a tank, that's an energy storage system. When it's heated water up, and it's holding hot water, then at the peak of energy usage, it doesn't have to make hot water, and you can just use it then. Think of it as a kind of a thermal battery. This is what I mean when I talk about these larger systems and thinking about how do we put them all to use in the best way.
Logan, as an added benefit to weaning ourselves off the energy that produces greenhouse gases, we'd also save in health care costs, nationally in the billions. How would that impact Louisiana?
For lots of reasons, obviously, Louisiana has a real health care crisis, which is why it was so important that our governor did the Medicaid expansion and enabled so many more of us to have access to health care coverage just a few years ago. But what it could mean is everything from improved respiratory effects. So for example, reduced trips to the ER for asthma, everything from that to improved water. And then when we also think about the fact that when our power goes out, an awful lot of us who are dependent on devices that require electricity, those who sleep with a CPAP machines, those who require electricity for oxygen, and even those who require electricity for cooling things like insulin and other medications, these things are directly tied to protecting life and safety, even when the power goes out. So just thinking about all of the ways in which our health and safety is is enmeshed with electric reliability really suggests that we need to be thinking more holistically.
To the point you're making. I don't think the electric grid is dependable in the US in general. But I suspect we're on the low end here in Louisiana, maybe particularly so in New Orleans?
We are particularly bad in New Orleans. But yes, Louisiana is 50th in the nation in terms of reliability. If you remove the those problems from major storms, even then we're still 47th. That's not just New Orleans, it really is a statewide concern.
You mentioned carbon capture a couple of questions back. There was a lot of news last month about Senator Bill Cassidy blocking EPA nominees over carbon capture delays. Can you break that down for me? First of all carbon capture, what's the problem with carbon capture?
Sure. First of all, the idea of carbon capture and storage or sequestration is it's a messy one, and one that has been poorly defined. It means lots of different things to lots of people. Carbon storage can include things like forests, that act as natural carbon sinks, our wetlands, which act as one of the largest natural carbon sinks in the country, here in in Louisiana. But the idea of mechanical carbon capture and sequestration has been sort of a promise for the last 40 years or so, of the of the oil and gas industry saying, "Well, rather than stopping using these fossil fuels, we'll just capture the carbon, either directly from the source, let's say from the venting flues at a fertilizer plant, and then we'll pipe it somewhere and stick it back underground, basically where those hydrocarbons came from." The difficulty here is that these these things haven't been proven at scale, really anywhere in the world. Over the last number of decades, billions of dollars have been spent. Even right here in our country, the Government Accounting Office, just a few months ago, did a report about how much money we've spent already on carbon capture sequestration, and what it's actually gotten back for us. Unfortunately, the answer is we're throwing money away, and we're not getting any of the climate benefits for it. One of the real concerns is that Louisiana really has a target on its back, because geologists have said through some research that our geology, in particular, the saline aquifers that ring the Gulf Coast, would be, "a good place to store this carbon." But that means that in a lot of the materials that are being developed at Princeton, and by the Clean Air Task Force and others, they're they're making it clear that Louisiana and Texas would be a dumping ground for the country's carbon. Furthermore, that means it's not just about, "Can it be captured?" Some of the mechanisms that are expected to capture it have failed in tests and demonstrations around the world. How is it then transported? Because as far as I understand it, we can't just repurpose the typical oil and gas pipelines, of which we have many in this state. Captured carbon requires higher pressure for pipelines. We can't just turn our existing oil and gas systems over to do this. And then there isn't a high level of certainty that once it is injected back into the ground that it would stay there. So what we have is just a lot of questions. And unfortunately, what we're seeing is a rush internationally, to use this promise of carbon capture and storage as a reason to keep up with the status quo, to keep drilling for oil, to keep burning fossil fuels. That simply isn't tenable. It's not possible.
Is Bill Cassidy, by blocking EPA nominees, just giving cover to oil and gas? Is that the move there?
That's our worry. If you watch much TV, you may have noticed that the oil and gas companies are often now rebranding as energy companies or as clean solutions companies. And a lot of that is trying to develop these new pipelines and projects to do carbon capture and sequestration, so that they can also continue their other exploration and mining. And, you know, right now, there are already really lucrative tax incentives to capture and sequester this carbon. Unfortunately, the bulk of the dollars that go toward these tax incentives are actually used for what's called "enhanced oil recovery." That means if they are able to capture carbon, they then use it, they move it through a pipeline, and use it to effectively frack, to force that carbon underground to get even more hydrocarbons out of the ground, that then are used for plastics and for burning and for shipping overseas. So 98% of the captured carbon in this country right now, which is even now on a small scale, is used for enhanced oil recovery. We're really very concerned that the idea of carbon capture and sequestration is being pushed as a promise for jobs in Louisiana, pushed as a promise for extending our existing energy economy in Louisiana. And, unfortunately, Louisiana, and the Gulf Coast in general, is being set up to receive this dump of new carbon. And and I have yet to see any certainty that our Department of Natural Resources, has the expertise, has the capacity, frankly has the budget, to manage what they're asking for, which is the right to permit these new kinds of wells, which would be used for carbon storage. That's what this is all about. What Cassidy is saying is, if the EPA isn't willing to quickly move, to give the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources what's called primacy right to permit these new wells, then he's not going to let any of these new other EPA positions move forward. Now, that's absurd. We know that the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Environmental Quality in Louisiana have been pointed out repeatedly as not following through on doing the work that they are already required to do, like following up on oil and gas permits, like tracking those wells, like making sure that air permits, for example, with the Department of Environmental Quality are tracked, and that rules are enforced. What we have in this state is a rule on the books already, that says, "If I create a carbon capture well, and I inject carbon into this well, after 10 years, all liability for that well transfers to the state of Louisiana." The state of Louisiana has already said it's willing and able to take on that liability. This is gobsmacking to me, and I really hope that our EPA, and our region six EPA leadership is recognizing just how important it is to use a magnifying glass when looking at whether our state government or state agencies are ready to manage these kinds of wells.
You've said that Louisiana, if we're not taking our climate change stewardship here seriously, we can't expect the rest of the country to take us seriously, and come to our aid when we need them to.
Right. How how can we possibly go to Congress and say, "We need money to rebuild after these natural disasters," year after year, if we're not taking care of our house? You know what I mean? And it's unfortunately, no wonder that we saw just last night, the US Congress made some decisions about where some aid packages would go. And the congressional decisions came down on the side of not funding a lot of hurricane rebuilding here in Louisiana for 2020 and 2021. And I'm not saying I don't blame them, but I am saying that if we aren't taking it seriously, why should we expect anyone else to?
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