Coastal restoration could get more funding from possible ballot measure

Published 10:44 am Saturday, March 30, 2024

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By Steve Wilson | The Center Square

A ballot measure could decide whether federal royalties on alternative energy production such as offshore wind would be sent to Louisiana’s coastal restoration fund.

House Bill 300, sponsored by Rep. Joseph Orgeron, R-Cut Off, would place a constitutional amendment on the ballot to redirect federal revenues from “generated from Outer Continental Shelf alternative or renewable energy production sources, including wind energy, solar energy, tidal energy, wave energy, geothermal energy, and other alternative or renewable energy production or sources.”

The bill is scheduled to be taken up by the House on Tuesday which is lawmakers’ first day back after Easter. Orgeron brought a similar bill last year that passed the House unanimously but died in the Senate.

Orgeron told the House Committee on Appropriations on March 19 that if the change isn’t made, 25% of any Gulf alternative energy production royalties would go to the state’s Mineral and Energy Operations Fund and the remainder to the state’s General Fund. He said since most of the state’s coastal restoration funds come from the Deepwater Horizon settlement, which will end in 2031, the state needs to find new sources of revenue to fund coastal restoration projects.

Federal law would have to be changed to allow those alternate energy revenues to be sent to Louisiana for coastal restoration. U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy filed a bill last year called the Reinvesting in Shoreline Economies & Ecosystems Act that would send alternative energy production royalties to coastal states. U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise has a bill called the Budgeting for Renewable Electrical Energy Zone Earnings that he has filed twice in the last two years.

Rep. Larry Bagley, R-Stonewall, said at the Appropriations Committee meeting on March 19 that he wasn’t opposed to funding coastal restoration projects, but wants at least some of those revenues spread more widely.

“I’m not sure I see the fairness there,” Bagley said. “And again, I’m not opposed to what you are doing. I just don’t see where we can give all to one group and very little to another. We’ve all got the same issues getting things fixed and getting things back together.”

Orgeron replied that he would gladly coauthor a bill to ensure that any royalties onshore alternative energy production such as wind or solar stayed with the inland parishes.

The companion bill, HB305, that would put into law the shift of federal royalties to the coastal protection fund if the measure is passed by voters has already passed the House unanimously. It is now in the hands of the Senate Committee on Finance.

The Louisiana Wildlife Federation, Levee Boards Association, the Pontchartrain Conservancy, the Port Association of Louisiana and other organizations filed cards in support of Orgeron’s bill.

The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority’s fiscal 2025 budget is $1.7 billion, with 136 total projects, 83 in progress. Funding is provided by federal Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act and state sources.