On Wednesday, May 10, 2023, Louisiana gubernatorial candidates, including State Senator Sharon Hewitt, Hunter Lundy, State Representative Richard Nelson, Stephen Waguespack, and Shawn Wilson, Ph.D., were featured on a panel at Oil and Natural Gas Industry Day to provide their views on the future of the state’s energy industry. Four hundred industry supporters, employees and elected officials attended the event, including parish leaders and several members of the state legislature.
Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil & Gas Association (LMOGA) President Tommy Faucheux moderated the panel. During the panel, candidates were asked about their views and policy positions around the future of Louisiana energy and how they would use the role as governor to expand and defend the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Louisianians.
State Senator Sharon Hewitt spoke about her history working in the energy industry and her commitment to ending irresponsible lawsuits against the industry.
“This is the only thing I have said I will do on my first day in office and that is to pause the coastal lawsuits. Tell my new secretary of DNR [Department of Natural Resources] go do your job, go research the coastal permits, and let’s determine who violated their permits and who did not. We will hold those accountable who did, but you cannot just haul off and sue 200 oil and gas companies and ask questions later,” Hewitt declared.
Hunter Lundy, an attorney from Lake Charles, made clear his view that Louisiana’s energy industry is critical to a strong state economy.
“This is the number one opportunity for Louisiana. It’s oil and gas and it’s development. We are the top in petroleum and natural gas production and supply it around the world,” Lundy stated.
State Representative Richard Nelson spoke about the opportunity for Louisiana to utilize the energy industry to set Louisiana apart to support growth in all sectors of the economy.
“We can really use energy as a competitive edge to make us more competitive, not just in energy but in other industries too,” said Nelson.
Stephen Waguespack, former CEO of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, expressed that Louisiana’s status as a “judicial hellhole” is stifling the state’s ability to bring in new investment and fund coastal restoration.
“We are battling every day, every year for jobs and investment. We are going around this country saying, ‘Please bring your industries here,’ and we have the worst reputation for legal climate in the country. We have to recognize that. We have to make improvements,” Waguespack stressed. “The lawsuits have stopped cleanup, the lawsuits have stopped investment, the lawsuits have stopped us from being as beautiful a sportsmen’s paradise as we want to be.”
Dr. Shawn Wilson, former Secretary of Louisiana’s Department of Transportation, emphasized the opportunity available to Louisiana right now by focusing on an all-of-the-above energy approach and utilizing new innovation in the energy industry.
“Instead of resting on our laurels and looking in the rearview mirror, the forward-facing window is much broader and much brighter. That is where we have to be. Having an all-of-the-above approach is the absolute way to let the market determine what the shares are of it. Not to mention the export and import of LNG. You’ve got everything on the menu here. It’s a smorgasbord. We love to eat, we love to work and we have a good time doing it,” Wilson said.
To open the panel, LMOGA President Tommy Faucheux highlighted this pivotal period of Louisiana’s energy industry and outlined how the next governor will determine its future.
“We can calculate the value and the revenue that comes from an offshore rig or a pipeline, but only the workers of the industry can calculate the value your job means to you, the kids you are raising and the future you are trying to write for your family,” Faucheux highlighted. “When you spend time with candidates, talk to them about the fact that having a job here provided by the energy industry of Louisiana, very much matters.”
Louisiana Oil and Gas Association (LOGA) President Mike Moncla also spoke at the event and raised the importance of industry supporters using their vote to send a message to elected leaders to support and defend Louisiana’s energy producers.
“The future and success of Louisiana’s energy industry is on the line in this election, so we ask you to consider this very carefully when you vote,” Moncla urged.
In addition to remarks from the gubernatorial candidates, Industry Day attendees also heard from a panel of local experts about new energy innovations and investments in Louisiana. This discussion included Cam Poole, Energy & Innovation Associate at GNO, INC., John Diez, Chief Administrative Officer for Ascension Parish, and Dr. Sherry Bai, College of Business Dean at McNeese State University. ExxonMobil Pipeline’s Patrice Aaron, Mid-Atlantic and Southeast Area Manager, moderated the discussion.
Dr. Sherry Bai shared insights on McNeese State University’s liquified natural gas business certification program.
“You cannot get this education elsewhere. We actually partner with the industry to secure the software that the industry uses in our new lab so you can actually learn the skills that the industry uses,” Dr. Bai shared. “We provide an industry-ready workforce. That is our mission and our goal.”
Cam Poole discussed how new opportunities in fields like hydrogen can support job growth in the state.
“What’s really exciting about hydrogen and all of these [new energy] opportunities is that we see companies that are already here, primarily oil and gas companies, transfer their expertise over to these fields, so that gives us the opportunity to grow bases of employment that are already bringing jobs to our people here,” Poole said.
John Diez detailed the importance of industry to local governments to support education, law enforcement, and other essential services.
“The chemical industry pays 49% of every schoolteacher’s salary, every sheriff’s deputy, every drainage pump, half of it is paid for by the industry. So that allows us to grow government services, not taxes, and that’s why it’s important,” Diez accentuated.
To open the event, Marc Ehrhardt, Executive Director of the Grow Louisiana Coalition, underscored that Industry Day proves how powerful and economically vital the energy industry is to Louisiana. He urged attendees to let their elected officials and candidates know the importance of the industry and voice their support for the energy industry on Election Day.
“The first wells that were ever explored, Louisiana people were there. The deepest wells ever explored in the Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana people where there. Russia invades Ukraine, the energy that keeps Europe going is coming from Louisiana. It is not either or, it’s all-of-the-above. That’s the message we have to send to the people who want to represent us,” Ehrhardt said.
The event was hosted by Grow Louisiana Coalition, LMOGA, LOGA, Louisiana Chemical Association, Associated Builders and Contractors, and H2The Future.