The roses and thorns of the 2019 session
The 2019 legislative session has finally come to a close. For those that thought this would be a quick and uncontentious two-month session for lawmakers, boy were they wrong. This session, even without another budget crisis, did not run short on its list of roses or thorns.
There were a handful of bills that passed this session that enhanced the environment for the oil and gas sector. The oil and gas industry will be able to participate in carbon dioxide sequestration, thanks to Rep. Raymond Crews filing House Bill (HB) 163. This bill allows the Office of Conservation and the Commissioner to promulgate rules to permit carbon sequestration. This bill, now law, was a collaboration between industry, regulators, and lawmakers to provide another environmentally friendly way to deal with excess carbon while producing energy.
Additionally, LOGA worked hand in hand with Rep. Blake Miguez to provide some clarification to the tax code. Due to a “unique” interpretation of Louisiana tax codes, oil companies in three parishes have recently been assessed a property tax on goods that was previously not taxed. Thankfully, this measure passed and on the October ballot will be a constitutional amendment to provide for a property tax exemption for goods bound for the Outer Continental Shelf, providing needed clarity for Louisiana’s offshore operators.
Louisiana will also experience one of the largest infrastructure investments in decades. Thanks to the teamwork of Rep. Tanner Magee, Sen. Rick Ward, and a coalition of pro-industry and business groups, Louisiana is set to receive nearly a $700 million investment for transportation projects. The best part about this investment is we, the taxpayers, are not on the hook for the tab. Instead of using taxpayer dollars, HB 572 directs BP Deepwater settlement dollars to these infrastructure projects, like the LA1 Improvement Project that connects to Port Fourchon.
However, it was not all cheers this session. There were two bills that received approval from the House but failed to receive approval from the Senate Finance Committee. These bills, HB 188 and HB 256, looked to provide a severance tax exemption for stripper and incapable wells when the price of oil was under $75. We thank Rep. Jim Morris for his help with these bills and for his support of the oil and gas industry as he now completes his tenure as a Louisiana state representative.
Louisiana missed a huge opportunity to begin the process of cleaning up our legal system and to lower our auto insurance rates. The missed opportunity came in the defeat of HB 372, the Omnibus Premium Reduction Act of 2019 by Rep. Kirk Talbot. This piece of legislation looked to tackle our outrageous auto insurance rates by instituting common sense legal reforms. The legislation received overwhelming support in the House but would make it no further than the Senate Judiciary A committee, the “King’s Landing” of the Senate… where all tort reform measures are scorched.
Now that session has ended, we can take the time to reflect on what’s next. Louisiana ranks 50th in best states to do business and 50th in best states in the nation; those numbers are dismal. We have some of the highest auto insurance, sales tax and severance tax rates and unfortunately the oil and gas industry is all too familiar with the impact that unnecessary Legacy and Coastal lawsuits have had on our industry. It is clear that Louisiana is in need of a change in direction and in our great democracy there is no better way to make that change than by having your voice heard in the voting booth. Elections are right around the corner, now is the time to engage.
Gifford Briggs is President of the Louisiana Oil & Gas Association