Editor’s note: The following is a commentary submitted by Public Servicce Commissioner Foster Campbell.
I strongly encourage Gov. John Bel Edwards and Governor-elect Jeff Landry to support placing a massive, taxpayer-funded, clean-energy project in southwest Louisiana on public land, producing a windfall for Louisiana.
Developers of the proposed “Project Cypress” carbon-capture facility want to locate their injection well on land owned by Gray Stream, one of the wealthiest men in Louisiana and chairman of Landry’s transition team.
The Stream property is near State-owned land in Vermillion Parish. Why not build this project where all the people of Louisiana would benefit, rather than a single, wealthy landowner?”
An attempt to discuss the use of the state-owned White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area for Project Cypress failed December 7 when a single member of the Wildlife & Fisheries Commission objected. That commission member, Abbeville alligator farmer Kevin Sagrera, single-handedly prevented discussion of the public option after fellow commission member Joe McPherson proposed that the White Lake option be considered.
Carbon Capture is very important to the economy of Louisiana and our environment, and it needs to be done right. That a single commission member could roadblock even a discussion of the public option seems contrary to the commission’s obligation to seek the best use of the 75,000 acres controlled by the DWLF.
Did I mention that the commission has already authorized three other carbon-capture projects on public wildlife-management areas? Why is this one project being carved out for Grey Stream?
Carbon capture is hugely expensive, which is why the federal government is putting up as much as $600 million to build and operate this facility. If State land is used, the people of Louisiana will benefit from the investment.
Project Cypress is one of two large carbon-capture proposals in line to receive billions of dollars in subsidy from the federal government. The other is proposed for the giant King Ranch in south Texas.
Ask yourself: Do we want to make well-to-do families richer, or do we want to fund critical infrastructure needs at White Lake? Revenue that the State receives from hosting a carbon-injection well at White Lake can help fund the ongoing efforts to protect Louisiana’s vulnerable wetlands.
It is hard not to be skeptical when one of the wealthiest families in Louisiana and another in Texas will get richer off taxpayer money when the funds could easily be returned to the taxpayers. I’ve been in politics too long to believe in coincidences.
But, it gets worse.
Louisiana electric utilities are, like heavy industry in Louisiana, under pressure to reduce their emissions of planet-warming carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels. Project Cypress officials told the Public Service Commission last month that they will ask Entergy, the state’s largest electric utility, to power their facilities capturing and disposing of carbon dioxide from Lake Charles-area industrial plants.
Substations, power lines and other electric facilities cost a lot of money. Entergy will pass on the cost of the required investment to their customers. In other words, the people of Louisiana will have to pay for the privilege of being cheated out of a substantial windfall.
Also, Entergy, CLECO and other Louisiana utilities may pay Project Cypress to dispose of carbon emissions from their gas- and coal-fired power plants. Gov. Edwards and Gov.-elect Landry should do all they can to manage the enormous cost of carbon capture and protect the public interest.”
Gray Stream’s position as chairman of Gov.-elect Landry’s transition council for the energy, chemical and maritime industries means he will be in a position to influence who is tapped to lead the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources under Landry, the very department that will manage Project Cypress. That’s a red flag if ever there was one.