The Caddo Parish Commission rejected a proposed moratorium offered by one of its commissioners to temporarily suspend ongoing and proposed oil and gas drilling activities in the Louisiana Parish, which contains Shreveport.
Seven-term Caddo Parish Commissioner Ken Epperson offered a resolution asking for a six-month, parish-wide moratorium on oil and gas drilling activities. Epperson said he developed the resolution in response complaints by some of his constituents about noise, dust, and traffic associated with drilling activities near their homes.
Epperson said he hoped the moratorium would “give time” to the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to address issues related to dust, smells, noise, and traffic associated with oil and gas activities near homes and other buildings in the Parrish. The resolution also asked the DNR to hold public hearings addressing complaints and to develop an enforceable plan to reduce oil and gas related nuisances.
Epperson’s resolution needed to gain a majority of the commissioners’ votes to be approved, but instead failed on a tie vote of six in favor of the moratorium and six opposed.
Former Shreveport Mayor Favors
Prior to the Commission meeting, two-time Shreveport mayor, Louisiana state Rep. Cedric B. Glover (D-Shreveport) wrote a letter supporting the 180-day moratorium to Commissioner of Conservation Richard Ieyoub.
Glover said problems were arising because recent oil and gas discoveries were shifting operations from rural areas where minerals owners possess large blocks of acreage, to smaller blocks of property in and near urban development.
Drillers are working to extract oil from the Haynesville Shale that underlies portions of Caddo Parish, including neighborhoods composed of small, primarily residential lots established and plotted in the 1930s. Glover’s letter said the preponderance of smaller lots does not easily lend itself to effectively empowering the mineral owners in their efforts to fairly negotiate with those seeking to secure access to their properties.
“It does not serve the interests of common, everyday people trying to ensure that they are making intelligent and informed decisions regarding matters to which they have limited experience, exposure, and understanding,” Glover wrote.
Commissioner John Atkins offered a compromise resolution at the meeting.
Atkins resolution would have noted citizens’ concerns in a letter sent to the DNR, but would not have called for a moratorium on operations.
During discussion of his resolution, Atkins said every industry has “bad actors,” but current rules already exist to address each of the types of complaints offered be residents. Rather than suspending oil and gas operations, which provide jobs and revenue in the Parrish, Atkins resolution called for stepped up enforcement of existing rules and better communications among industry, the Commission, and residents.
Atkins’ resolution also failed to pass.
Negative Response from Industry
Oil and gas operators were quick to respond to the proposed moratorium, with three industry groups submitting a letter to the Caddo Parish Council expressing their view that even a short-term drilling moratorium would have a devastating economic impact in the Parrish and the state.
The joint letter from the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, and the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association strongly urged the Parrish Commission to reject the proposed moratorium.
“Since 2014, the natural gas and oil industry has provided more than 5,000 direct jobs to Caddo Parish residents, including more than 500 direct jobs directly related to drilling,” said the joint letter. “One of the greatest benefits of this industry is not just the direct jobs created, but the thousands of indirect jobs created because of oil and natural gas activity – more than 6,000 indirect jobs in Caddo Parish since 2015.
“These are good-paying jobs, paying up to approximately $93,000,000 in wages to Caddo Parish residents … wages have totaled up to $4,000,000 annually paid since 2013,” the letter continued. “The indirect jobs created in Caddo Parish because of oil and gas activity generates up to $100,000,000 in wages annually … [i]n addition to paying wages to residents of Caddo Parish, the natural gas and oil industry has paid more than $100,000,000 million in ad valorem taxes directly to Caddo Parish.”
The joint letter also made the point that a moratorium could create legal problems for the Parish, because it would be denying property owners and mineral owners their rights to develop their property under state law, and breach existing contracts.
In addition, they wrote, existing state law provides ample opportunities for public input prior to initiation of drilling, requiring, for example, operator must publicly post their intent to drill, reach out to surrounding interested parties, and conduct a public hearing at which citizens can express their concerns.
‘Send a Chilling Message’
The moratorium would result in job losses, harming the region and the state, says Ryan Roberts, external affairs manager at the Pelican Institute.
“The energy industry creates countless jobs and is crucial to providing work for many Louisianans,” said Roberts. “This moratorium would send a chilling message to the energy industry who will take their jobs to other, friendlier states.
“Parishes and local governments should look to work with job creators instead of pushing mandates upon them that would negatively affect jobs and opportunities for thousands of hardworking Louisianans,” Roberts said.
Duggan Flanakin (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes from Austin, Texas.