Rep. Jeff Landry’s latest amendment to require an offshore rescue vessel within striking distance of Gulf oil rigs is generating a considerable bit of steam this week. KLFY-TV in Lafayette had a segment on the legislation and its reaction last night…
Landry’s amendment, which ended up as Section 608 of HB 2838, otherwise known as the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2011, would mandate that a stand-by vessel be within three nautical miles of every rig engaged in drilling and 12 nautical miles of every active rig. The justification for the mandate is the Damon Bankston, which was a supply vessel that happened to be nearby and thus saved 115 members of the Deepwater Horizon’s crew when that rig blew up. Coast Guard helicopters took an hour and seven minutes to arrive on that scene; by then the ship had taken care of the rescue.
Internationally, stand-by vessels are a common requirement for offshore drilling.
“As South Louisiana’s representative, I understand that our nation’s most valuable natural resource is not the oil and gas underneath our waters; it is the men and women who risk their lives to deliver the energy we need to create jobs and fuel our economy,” declared Landry. “It is for that reason, I am thankful the House of Representatives, in a strong bi-partisan manner, passed the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act.”
“Today’s bill will enhance the safety of our hard-working men and women working off our shores to extract the energy our nation needs,” continued Landry. “My standby vessel provision applies the lessons of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy and guarantees our offshore workers will have a vessel nearby ready to act if another accident occurs. I am thankful that my colleagues supported me voted to give our hard-working men and women another asset to ensure they return home safely to their spouses and children.”
Landry’s Section 608 isn’t an off-the-wall proposal, and it passed as part of HB 2838, which will now go to the Senate. But Briggs’ criticism that it represents more regulation on an industry the Obama administration is regulating to death is, after all, a valid one. As such, there was an amendment to strip Section 608 which ultimately was withdrawn.
One of the supporters of that amendment, the Olson Amendment (it was authored by Pete Olson (R-TX)), was Rep. Charles Boustany, who Landry will be running against in a redrawn district pitting two incumbents against each other next year.
And after HB 2838 passed, Boustany took a pot-shot at Section 608…
“However, there is a stand-by vessel provision in H.R. 2838 which would create excessive regulations on energy producers and hinders the progress we have made in order to re-start Gulf energy production. Like many in the maritime, oil, and natural gas industries, I am opposed to implementing additional regulations when current operating standards already adequately address safety. I will continue to vigorously defend our country’s ability to maximize energy production and will continue to work with the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee and Senate to fight these unnecessary provisions.”
Landry is casting this controversy as one between Big Oil and Louisiana’s offshore workers, and he’s not altogether wrong there. Of course, there’s another player in the controversy – that being the folks who operate the service boats, and Landry has been a favorite of theirs.
More on this, for certain, as next year’s election comes closer. Both Congressmen are effective gatherers of support, though this issue is a bit unusual in that oil companies and offshore service providers are rarely at odds.