Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards will ask legislators to dedicate $115 million of the $535 million state surplus to coastal restoration and protection projects.
Along with almost $131 million in federal revenue sharing from energy development in the Gulf of Mexico, the money would push Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority spending next fiscal year above $1 billion for the first time in state history, Edwards says.
The offshore energy dollars are constitutionally dedicated to coastal restoration, and coastal projects are one of the permissible uses for surplus money, which cannot be spent on general government operations.
Edwards also plans to dedicate $43 million next fiscal year to ensure the sustainability of the state’s oyster industry, he said. Coastal projects such as freshwater diversions can disrupt commercial fisheries.
On Thursday, Edwards announced his intention to issue two executive orders meant to address the “coastal crisis.” The first will establish a “chief resilience officer” tasked with integrating the state’s coastal master plan into the decision-making of other state agencies.
The second will establish a Climate Initiatives Task Force to look for opportunities to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions without imposing new regulations on the state’s industries. Rising sea levels associated with global warming pose a serious challenge to coastal restoration and protection, experts say.
“We are an energy state with a coastal crisis,” Edwards said. “Louisiana will do its part to address the causes of climate change.”
Don Pierson, head of the state’s economic development department, said the state is responding to an industry coalition that “sees the value of carbon capture.” The federal government offers tax incentives to secure carbon rather than releasing it into the atmosphere, and the geology of certain parts of the state could make Louisiana an ideal home for carbon capture reservoirs, he said.
“We see the ability [for Louisiana] to be a national or international leader in carbon capture,” Pierson said.