CLIMATEWIRE | Republican Jeff Landry’s victory in Louisiana’s gubernatorial election promises to further empower the fossil fuel industry in a top oil-producing state that’s grappling with climate impacts.
Landry, the state’s attorney general and a former congressman, won 52 percent in Louisiana’s all-party primary Saturday — surprising many by clearing the majority threshold needed to avoid a runoff election in November. Preliminary returns pointed to low voter turnout.
Landry will succeed term-limited Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat who generally supported the oil and gas sector even as he tried to steer the state toward decarbonization. Edwards sought to turn Louisiana into a hub for carbon capture and sequestration, and his climate change task force — criticized by environmental justice advocates for its heavy representation of industry — assembled the first climate plan in the Deep South.
”If you care about energy anywhere in this country — whether that's where your energy is coming from, or how much it costs — what is happening politically in Louisiana will impact you,” said Logan Burke, executive director for the Alliance for Affordable Energy, a consumer and energy advocacy group.
Landry has promised to take a harder line supporting fossil fuels than his predecessor. Whereas Edwards traveled to United Nations climate summits and supported offshore wind development, Landry has called climate change a “hoax” and has sued the Biden administration over its efforts to put a price tag on the social cost of carbon emissions.
“It is our belief that, as Louisiana’s next Governor, Jeff Landry will be a friend of industry,” Louisiana Oil and Gas Association President Mike Moncla said in a statement to E&E News.
Landry’s appointments for the secretary of natural resources, commissioner of conservation, and the State Energy and Mineral Board could help industry, Moncla said. The sector also hopes the governor-elect will lower the state’s severance tax and make it harder to sue companies.
Oil and gas companies have faced mounting legal liability over claims of damaging Louisiana’s coast, with Landry sometimes caught in the middle. As attorney general, he clashed with Edwards over the Democrat suing oil companies. But Landry also approved a $100 million settlement from one company in 2021 — which the industry sharply criticized.
“We expect Governor-Elect Landry to support tort reform and choose to end Louisiana’s reign as the ‘legal hellhole’ of the United States,” Moncla said. “We need to make Louisiana an attractive and profitable place for oil and gas companies to do business.”
Landry also has a personal interest in the industry. He earned between $50,000 and $100,000 in 2022 as an independent board member of Harvey Gulf, a company that services offshore oil rigs.
He’s been less friendly toward renewable energy.
“I’ve always been an all-of-the-above [supporter]. But I’m not all-of-the-above if it doesn’t make sense,” Landry told the Cajun Overcomer earlier this year. The Republican said he supports nuclear power but is skeptical of wind and solar. “What concerns me the most is we continue to go down a path of trying to offload our energy needs on unreliable sources of energy," he said.
“We can have a discussion [about renewable energy],” Landry added. Asked if he would support offshore wind development, Landry was noncommittal: “We’ll look at it.”
Observers said Landry’s election is bad news for offshore wind development, which is already struggling to get a foothold. In August, the Gulf of Mexico’s first offshore wind sale resulted in just one developer winning a lease in federal waters off Louisiana.
“Interest for offshore wind sale may have been suppressed because of the lack of state level policies to incentivize or support it,” said Joshua Basseches, an environmental policy professor at Tulane University.
But while Edwards could have done more to support the industry, he said, Landry has shown no interest in broadening Louisiana’s energy portfolio.
“Landry, I think, all else being equal, would probably take the state backwards on climate relative to Edwards,” Basseches said.
Landry has expressed support for carbon capture projects, and he’s likely to continue Edwards’ support for liquefied natural gas exports.
Regardless of the governor, “there's a business case for all these companies to continue to invest in new energy technologies” including hydrogen, carbon capture, and low-carbon oil and gas, said Tommy Faucheux, president of the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association.
The state is the No. 3 gas producer in the country, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and it accounts for almost two-thirds of U.S. LNG exports.
Climate and clean energy advocates expect Landry to push the state to pump even more — a prospect they equate with removing environmental and health protections.
“He’s going to have a bulletproof Senate and Legislature that can pass any law they want,” said Russel Honoré, the retired lieutenant general who rose to prominence during Hurricane Katrina and now leads the environmental group Green Army.
“We live in a land of oligarchs,” he added, “where the oil and gas companies in each parish and each district provide a lot of donated money during elections.”