Republican governors gather to attack Biden’s climate agenda

11 06 2024 | 20:11Dharna Noor

Republican governors gathered in the fossil-fuel rich state of Louisiana on Monday to rail against the Biden administration’s climate agenda and lay out plans to “unleash American energy”, alarming community advocates and climate experts.

“President Biden has done nothing but attack American energy,” said the Louisiana governor Jeff Landry, who led the Wednesday press conference.

Landry was joined by by Republican governors from Alaska, Georgia, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Virginia.

Hours before the presser, the group sent a joint letter to Biden requesting pro fossil-fuel rules and regulations, including an “end [to] regulatory overreach that unnecessarily restricts domestic energy production”, speeding the approval of federal drilling permits, and ending the pause on new liquefied natural gas export licenses. The letter does not mention that US oil and gas production has soared under President Biden, reaching record levels in 2023.

The meeting was held at the Chalmette oil refinery, which a September Environmental Protection Agency report found was out of compliance with federal benzene regulations. In 2020, fires at the facility caused releases of sulphur dioxide, sending foul odors across the region.

The event was convened by the Republican Governors Public Policy Committee, which, documents show, has accepted funding from the US’s largest fossil-fuel trade organization, the American Petroleum Institute.

The group is the policy arm of the corporate-backed Republican Governors Association (RGA), the main campaign arm tasked with electing Republican executives across the country, which has taken funding from Chevron, Exxon, Koch Industries and other fossil-fuel companies, and also has financial links to Leonard Leo, a key figure behind the conservative effort to move the judiciary to the right.

At the press conference, the governors said pro-fossil fuel policies would benefit ordinary Americans. Governor Mike Dunleavy of Alaska said: “What we’re talking about here is … developing an energy policy for the single mom with three kids.”

And Louisiana’s Landry said that “if the federal government took its foot off of the neck of American energy, we could absolutely lower the costs of everyday goods” – suggesting boosting oil and gas would lower inflation.

But experts say boosting extraction in the US would not depress gas prices because fuel prices are set globally.

Fossil fuel expansion would also be a “death sentence” for frontline communities worst affected by toxic industrial pollution, said the environmental justice activist Sharon Lavigne.

“He is not for human lives,” Lavigne, who founded the local grassroots organization Rise St James, said of Landry.

Since taking office earlier this year, Landry has appointed oil, gas and coal executives to Louisiana’s environmental posts, while targeting the state’s climate taskforce for possible elimination as part of a broader reorganization plan. He has repeatedly claimed to be fighting for “energy independence” – a term he repeated on Monday. Yet the US remains net exporter of oil and gas, meaning the nation already produces more energy than it consumes.

Jackson Voss, who works on climate policy for the Louisiana-based environmental group Alliance for Affordable Energy, also noted the fossil fuel and petrochemical industries contribute more to toxic air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions than any other industry in Louisiana. The state also brings in less than 10% of its revenue from oil and gas.

“Oil and gas benefits a great deal from Louisiana, through subsidies, through deregulation, through its attorney general challenging national policy,” he said. “But in terms of the benefits of getting back to Louisiana? I’d say they’re fairly minimal.”