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Posts Tagged ‘Louisiana’

More oil rigs in Gulf than before BP oil spill

February 4th, 2011 Comments off

According to The Times Picayune in New Orleans …

While a backlog of drilling permits in Washington continues to feed oil industry angst, new data shows that more rigs are in the Gulf of Mexico than before the BP oil spill, indicating that operators might have more confidence in the future than they are letting on.

While only 34 of the 125 rigs in the Gulf are actually working — half the total that were active before the Macondo well blowout — the vast majority of the idle rigs, particularly those slated for big-ticket jobs in deepwater, will remain under contract for the rest of 2011.

The latest tracking information from ODS-Petrodata, a Houston-based compiler of oil and gas data, shows there are 10 more rigs in the Gulf now than there were last April.

While only 34 of the 125 rigs in the Gulf are actually working — half the total that were active before the Macondo well blowout — the vast majority of the idle rigs, particularly those slated for big-ticket jobs in deepwater, will remain under contract for the rest of 2011.

In the shallow-water Gulf oil fields, where the government has never officially banned drilling but has issued few work permits in the past several months, activity has rebounded to near its pre-blowout levels.

There are 26 shallow-water rigs operating now, just 11 fewer than before the BP blowout, according to ODS-Petrodata. In December, the government issued seven shallow-water drilling permits, matching the monthly average from the year leading up to the BP disaster.

There are also signs of renewal in the more lucrative deepwater fields.

••• (Update) LaForge issues statement on earmarks

November 17th, 2010 Comments off

An update with my column from this week’s Mississippi Business Journal print edition as well as some links from other stories about LaForge’s comments …

LaForge delivers thoughtful argument in earmark battle

Bill LaForge believes efforts to eliminate earmarks by the incoming U.S. House GOP majority is “short-sighted.”

It was just a couple of weeks ago I wrote a column about LaForge and his recently released book titled “Testifying Before Congress,” which is gaining accolades from across the country.

The Cleveland native is past national president of the Federal Bar Association and is a frequent speaker on the topics of government and Congressional relations, communicating with Congress, the Congressional hearings process and the Congressional appropriations process.

LaForge is a main figure on Capitol Hill, having served as chief counsel of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture and culminated his government career as chief legislative counsel and chief of staff to Sen. Thad Cochran. Previously he served as Congressional liaison for the Peace Corps and as a legislative assistant to Mississippi Rep. David Bowen.

So, when he issued a statement last week critical of the anti-earmark wave, it should make all of us stand up and take notice.

His point was that eliminating earmarks will not change budget numbers, going so far as to say eliminating earmarks gives all of the budgeting power to the executive branch.

LaForge’s viewpoint is quite different from the one popular with the masses out there.

But LaForge isn’t one to stick his neck on the line for the hell of it.
He understands the process of Washington and the process of the national budget.

Republicans have abandoned the you-scratch-my-back, I’ll-scratch-yours earmark process, Democrats who still hold a majority in the Senate have to decide whether they’ll try to prop up a system that seems to be collapsing all around them.

With the GOP dead set against earmarks and President Barack Obama urging a crackdown, defenders of earmarks — mostly Democrats but with a few Republicans mixed in — are swimming against a powerful tide.

Earmarking allows lawmakers to steer federal spending to pet projects in their states and districts. Earmarks take many forms. They can be road projects, improvements to home district military bases, sewer projects, economic development projects and even those Predator drone aircraft that are used to kill terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

They can also include tax breaks for a handful of specific companies, like a tax cut proposed years ago for manufacturers of hunting arrows.

The reason Capitol Hill’s favor factory has churned out so many pork-barrel projects so successfully for so long is pretty simple: Everybody did it, Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives.

Not anymore.

Critics like Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and incoming House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, have railed against earmarks for years, even as they proliferated when Republicans controlled Congress. Slowly, the tide has turned in their favor.

Boehner promises that next year’s spending bills won’t have earmarks. The opinion of House Democrats doesn’t matter much since they’ll be stripped of most of their power under a Boehner-led regime.

But it was last week’s surprise announcement by Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky in support of a two-year moratorium on earmarks that fundamentally shifted the paradigm. Until then, McConnell had been a strong defender of the practice. Banning earmarks wouldn’t save money and would shift too much power to Obama, McConnell said in the days after the midterm Congressional elections.

Despite deep misgivings among many old-timers, Republican senators followed McConnell’s lead and endorsed a nonbinding moratorium on earmarks by a voice vote in a closed meeting.

LaForge says this direction is the wrong one.

“ … McConnell … went along with the party’s conservative wing,” he said. “This is all in reaction to the election and to voter interests in the government, especially the Congress, doing everything possible to reduce spending and get the financial house in order. Congressional Republican leaders feel it is necessary to restore trust in government by the American people.”

Earmarks are not ‘new’ money, LaForge went on to say.

“They only direct where the money will be spent. Essentially, they are directives from Congress on how taxpayers’ dollars should be spent, rather than allowing executive branch agencies to make all the decisions. The same amount of dollars will still be on the table and will be spent.”

A shareholder at Winstead Sechrest & Minick, P.C., specializing in government relations/public policy, LaForge makes a great argument, and a reasoned, thoughtful one.

If only we had more reasoned, thoughtful arguments in Washington, we would be better off.

Contact Mississippi Business Journal editor Ross Reily at ross.reily@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1018.

••• Other links with similar stories …

A lobbyist’s defense of earmarks: They make the government work

That Earmarks Ban? Mostly For Show

FACT CHECK: Ban on pet projects mostly symbolic

Our Opinion: Doling out our cash

Bennett: Earmark ban good politics, bad policy

Earmark reform won’t dent the deficit

••••••••

Here is the original post from last week …

Cleveland native Bill LaForge, a past national president of the Federal Bar Association, has issued a statement on the topic of earmarks that has become a national issue and rallying cry in the recent national elections.

LaForge calls the efforts to eliminate earmarks as “shortsighted”, giving all of the budgeting power to the executive branch.

LaForge is a frequent speaker on the topics of government and Congressional relations, communicating with Congress, the Congressional hearings process and the Congressional appropriations process.

“Earmarks are not “new” money,” LaForge said in his statement. “They only direct where the money will be spent.

“Essentially, they are directives from Congress on how taxpayers’ dollars should be spent, rather than allowing executive branch agencies to make all the decisions. The same amount of dollars will still be on the table and will be spent.”

A shareholder at Winstead Sechrest & Minick, P.C., specializing in government relations/public policy, LaForge has been a main figure on Capitol Hill as chief counsel of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture and culminated his government career as chief legislative counsel and chief of staff to Sen. Thad Cochran. Previously he served as Congressional liaison for the Peace Corps and as a legislative assistant to Mississippi Rep. David Bowen.

Below is his statement, in full …

I decided to issue my own statement on earmark reform:

Yesterday the Senate Republican conference agreed on a two-year moratorium on earmarks. Republican Leader Mitch McConnell reluctantly changed his position of supporting earmarks, went along with the party’s conservative wing, and embraced the idea of a moratorium, thus ensuring the endorsement of the Republican caucus, and avoiding a bitter and devisive intra-party battle. This is all in reaction to the election and to voter interests in the government, especially the Congress, doing everything possible to reduce spending and get the financial house in order. Congressional Republican leaders feel it is necessary to restore trust in government by the American people.

However, in reality, it is a mere symbolic gesture…a political reaction and a “feel-good” outcome for politicians who believe that they must listen to the American people and do their will on this issue. It will have NO impact on the federal budget. Earmarks are not “new” money. They only direct where the money will be spent. Essentially, they are directives from Congress on how taxpayers’ dollars should be spent, rather than allowing executive branch agencies to make all the decisions. The same amount of dollars will still be on the table and will be spent. The sad difference now is that Congress is abdicating its constitutional responsibility and privilege regarding the power of the purse, and turning over all the decisions to the executive branch. To me, this is very short-sighted. But it is an issue rife with demagoguery and political messaging. Politicians are falling all over themselves trying to outdo their rivals on this issue, so you will note that an unlikely coalition involving the President and congressional Republicans is having a field day with this issue. For many, perception has become reality, and it appears that the moratorium is real, at least for now. The Senate action by Republicans comes on the heels of similar action by House Republicans earlier this year. It remains to be seen how congressional Democrats in both houses will respond and what they will do next. It is possible that all or some Democrats, and possibly even some Republicans, will continue to request earmarks. Politically I would envision Republicans making any Democratic earmarks a big issue during the next campaign. Hell hath no fury like a reformed earmarker! Only time will tell.

Haley’s been soaking his head in oil

June 5th, 2010 Comments off

Gov. Haley Barbour told a group of mostly native Mississippians today (Saturday) that the oil tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico isn’t as bad as the media is making it out to be.

“It’s really more of a nuisance,” he said.

Really?

Barbour made the comments at the Mississippi in the Park event at Central Park in New York City.

Does he really believe that?

Nearly 40 percent of the Gulf of Mexico is closed to fishing and boating; oil is inundating the marshes of Louisiana and is beginning to wash ashore in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

I suppose nuisance is one way to describe it, but I suspect only folks that are trying to downplay the effect of this tragedy would use that term.

Gov. Barbour has no sense of urgency about this event and hasn’t since Day 1.

While Mississippi has not seen the devastation to evironment and wildlife that Louisiana has to date, there is no guarantee those conditions will hold.

It really is quite striking that Gov. Barbour would even be in New York when he should be on the ground on the gulf coast monitoring the situation.

During the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Gov. Barbour was famous for going on national television and anywhere else, for that matter, and telling everyone how Mississippians are “hitching up their britches,” to get through the tragedy.

Maybe it’s time Gov. Barbour hitch up his britches and make sure the Mississippi Gulf Coast is protected from an event that could prove to be far more costly than Hurricane Katrina in the long run.

Back in the office, Northway to tell story of the Coast

May 6th, 2010 Comments off

Mississippi Business Journal senior reporter Wally Northway is back from a day on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where he talked with residents from bay St. Louis to Ocean Springs about the potential for disaster associated with the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

He also spent the afternoon on a media boat that toured some of the affected waters.

“The fight to stave off the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and protect the Gulf Coast’s delicate ecosystem was more than evident,” Northway said.

Look for his story here Friday and in the print edition of the Mississippi Business Journal, which will be available in newsstands Friday afternoon.

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Explosion does not signal end of off-shore drilling

April 29th, 2010 Comments off

There have been those in the last week or so that have found reason to link the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico to halting offshore oil production anywhere in the United States.
That’s way too much of a leap for me.
First, those oil rigs in the Gulf have been through a lot — hurricanes, high seas and more — and rarely show signs of wear and tear.
The offshore oil rigs off of America’s coasts have served the country well and will continue to serve their country for some time in the future.
What I did find interesting is that on the same week we are worried about an oil spill in the Gulf — which (as of this writing) is threatening to come ashore in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida — the Obama administration approved the 130-turbine Cape Wind  project in the Nantucket Sound of Massachusetts, and developers say they want to generate power by 2012.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s decision “allows our nation to harness an abundant and inexhaustible clean energy source for greater energy independence, a healthier environment and green jobs,” Cape Wind president Jim Gordon said.
What I do think is that we need to continue to be smarter about the energy we use and produce.
We all know that at some point we are going to run out of oil.
While they are needed now, offshore oil rigs aren’t there forever. Over the course of time, we will use less and less oil. That is just a fact. Why else would Exxon, Chevron, BP and others be investing billions and billions of dollars into finding more and better alternative energy solutions?
Wind and other alternative fuel sources can be used for as long as Mother Earth is a part of the universe.
But, to suggest we abandon offshore oil production because of the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig is short-sighted and not practical.
The explosion was an accident that likely should have been prevented, but we have to move forward, protect our coastlines and be better at monitoring the safety of those rigs for environmental and humanitarian reasons.
This is a transitional stage in the energy world, and we will have get through it together.
There’s no place for knee-jerk reactions.

Contact Mississippi Business Journal editor Ross Reily at ross.reily@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1018.