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What actions has the governor of Louisiana taken during his first month in office? Increase support for fossil fuels.
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What actions has the governor of Louisiana taken during his first month in office? Increase support for fossil fuels.

During his initial month as Louisiana’s governor, Jeff Landry, a Republican, appointed individuals with connections to the oil, gas, and coal industries to various environmental positions within the state.

Landry has referred to climate change as a “hoax” and has criticized the state’s climate taskforce for being potentially eliminated as part of a major restructuring of Louisiana’s environmental department. The aim, as stated in Landry’s executive order, is to improve the business climate in the future.

During his initial month in office, Landry has indicated a shift in priorities for the department of natural resources, the government body responsible for regulating the fossil fuel sector, by incorporating the term “energy” into its title.

Despite the US and other nations making commitments to transition away from using fossil fuels, Landry is going in the opposite direction.

The recently appointed governor aims to expand the oil and gas sector, which provides employment opportunities for hundreds of thousands of individuals in Louisiana. Environmental advocates hold the industry responsible for the pollution that has negatively affected marginalized communities within the state.

One way to predict Landry’s future is by looking at the appointment of Tyler Gray to head the state’s energy and natural resources department. Gray joins the new administration after serving as the corporate secretary and lobbyist for Placid Refining Company for the past two years.

For those concerned about the environment, these are concerning indicators for a state that is experiencing a surge in planned liquefied natural gas facilities and carbon capture initiatives. They claim that this could further elevate Louisiana’s already significant contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, which impact climate change.

The region of Louisiana considered a ‘sacrifice zone’.

Advocates claim that Landry’s actions were not surprising, considering his previous behavior as state attorney general and his confrontational approach to matters of environmental justice.

Jackson Voss, the climate policy coordinator for the Alliance for Affordable Energy, stated that Gray’s appointment is “unsatisfactory yet expected.”

Voss stated that, in our viewpoint, the department of natural resources in Louisiana has consistently had a significant association with the oil and gas sector.

Human Rights Watch’s most recent publication brought attention to the alleged negative impacts of the oil and gas industry on the environment and the health of predominantly Black communities in the Cancer Alley region of south-east Louisiana.

Antonia Juhasz, a researcher, conducted interviews with numerous individuals residing in Cancer Alley. These residents shared their experiences with miscarriages, high-risk pregnancies, infertility, respiratory problems, and a variety of other health issues in their communities. They believe that these ailments are a result of prolonged exposure to pollution and hazardous emissions from the significant presence of polluting businesses.

According to Juhasz, the fossil fuel and petrochemical industry has established a designated area for sacrifice in Louisiana. In a prepared statement, Juhasz expressed concern over the lack of proper regulation by state and federal authorities, highlighting the detrimental impact on residents living in Cancer Alley.

A fossil fuel industry leader is in charge of an agency focused on protecting the environment.

The current secretary for natural resources in Louisiana, Gray, previously worked for seven years at the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association (LMOGA), where he served as president for the last two years. While at LMOGA, Gray was involved in creating the contentious 2018 legislation that makes it a crime to protest near pipelines and construction sites for oil and gas.

Anne Rolfes, the founder of Louisiana Bucket Brigade, a grassroots non-profit organization working towards holding the petrochemical industry accountable, holds a bleak perspective on the state’s past and future.

According to Rolfes, the government has always failed to challenge the power of the oil industry. Regardless of who is in charge, there seems to be a narrow focus on using the oil and gas industry as a means of economic growth, even if it ultimately harms our state.

Unsurprisingly, Landry’s decision to choose Gray was praised by his replacement at LMOGA.

In a prepared statement, the president of the group, Mike Moncla, stated that this appointment signifies the beginning of a new era for the oil and gas industry in our state. He also expressed confidence that the appointee will greatly benefit the industry.

Both Landry and Gray’s office did not reply to numerous requests for comments.

Landry has connections to the oil, gas, and coal industries.

Landry has chosen Gray, a former executive in the fossil fuel industry, to head Louisiana’s environmental initiatives.

Tony Alford, once a co-owner and leader of a Houma-based business in the oilfield services industry, has been appointed as the chairman of the governor’s Advisory Commission on Coastal Protection. Meanwhile, Benjamin Bienvenu, a professional in the oil sector and a trained petroleum engineer, has taken on the role of commissioner of conservation at the department of energy and natural resources.

Landry appointed Aurelia Giacometto as the head of the state’s environmental quality department. Giacometto previously served as the director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service during the Trump administration and is a member of a coal company’s board of directors.

Madison Sheahan, the choice of Landry for the new head of the department of wildlife and fisheries in the state, does not have experience in either wildlife or fisheries. She previously served as the executive director of the Republican party in South Dakota and oversaw Trump’s re-election campaign in that state. Sheahan’s agency is also responsible for handling investigations into oil spills within the state.

As the state’s attorney general, Landry sued the Environmental Protection Agency over its “disparate-impact” rules designed to better regulate emissions in communities of color in areas such as Cancer Alley. A Trump-appointed federal district judge in western Louisiana recently sided with Landry on that lawsuit.

According to Angelle Bradford, a representative for the Delta branch of the Sierra Club, Landry’s actions demonstrate a lack of concern for the climate crisis in Louisiana.

Bradford stated that there is a recurring issue of favoritism in play, where individuals are being appointed to positions who not only disregard established regulations, but also implement new rules that work against our interests.

Floodlight is a non-governmental organization dedicated to researching the influential forces impeding progress on addressing climate change.

Source: theguardian.com