Louisiana gives shelter and sanctuary to the poor and helpless oil companies, or at least that is what a few legislative members want.
A legislator wants to make Louisiana a “fossil fuel sanctuary state,” quixotically asserting special sovereignty to nullify any federal law, regulation or tax that in any way harms the oil and gas industry. Rep. Danny McCormick, a Republican from Oil City, a town of about 1,000 residents in northwest Louisiana, says his House Bill 617 is a “preemptive effort” to protect the industry from the future policies of President Joe Biden’s administration. “What he’ll do, I can’t answer yet,” McCormick said Wednesday, shortly after the bill was introduced in the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee. “There may be no limit to his attacks on the fossil fuel industry.” The bill was partially inspired by the cities and other local jurisdictions that defied the immigration policies of former President Donald Trump’s administration. These so-called “sanctuary cities” refused to hand over immigration detainees for deportation. McCormick’s bill claims Louisiana’s “right to autonomy” from federal regulations or laws that restrict oil drilling and any other method of fossil fuel acquisition. It would also bar any act that forbids possession, use or sale of fossil fuels. Any tax or fee that may have “a negative effect” on the industry could also be prohibited.nola.com
The bill has also had legal analysts shaking their heads.
“It’s an act of legislative theater,” said Mark Davis, director of the Tulane University Center for Environmental Law. “If they were giving a prize for the most unconstitutional bill … this would be a candidate to win it.” William Goodell, a former state assistant attorney general for environmental enforcement, said the bill is almost incomprehensible. For starters, the state can’t simply nullify a swath of federal laws. Trying to do so could drag the state into long and expensive litigation on dozens of fronts, he said. “It’s hard to wrap my head around it,” Goodell said. “It’s so vague that it makes the bill unconstitutional and totally unenforceable.”
It is also it is not a sure bet the bill will even get out of the committee. McCormick is the owner of M & M Oil and has had to lay off workers with the oil slowdown. He always supports the oil industry.
“We are an oil and gas state,” he said. “One of nine jobs are related to it. It pays for our roads and every school.” McCormick says his father pulled his family out of poverty with work in the oilfields. The industry offered good pay for people without college degrees. “I know guys with only a high school [diploma] making six figures,” he said. “But those jobs are being destroyed.”
Oil and oil revenues have been shrinking since the 1960’s. Once over half of the states revenues it is now only five percent. Oil production is less than one-tenth of what it used to be. This is more of a rear guard reaction not based on reality. The losses have been a result of shale oil production as well as, recently, the pandemic.
McCormick thinks the industry’s setbacks will bolster support for his bill. “The question is: How will we replace all those jobs if the fossil fuel industry is destroyed,” he said. “Nobody’s been able to answer that.”
McCormick is better known for his antics than for being an effective legislator.
Elected in 2019, McCormick is known less for legislation and more for incendiary social media posts and videos. He drew national attention last year when he posted a video comparing coronavirus mask mandates to the treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany. In one scene, he takes a chain saw to a surgical mask while saying the “Constitution is being shredded before our very eyes.” The video elicited a rebuke from Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat who called it “nonsense and sad.” Tulane law professor Oliver Houck said McCormick’s bill does more of the same: “It just makes the state look stupid.” “He chain-sawed a mask, and now he’s chain-sawing the Louisiana Legislature,” Houck said. “They need to kill this bill quick.”
Sadly, he is not alone.