Environmental and climate advocates in Louisiana are bracing for a dirtier environment and more carbon emissions throughout the state under a Jeff Landry administration.

Over the last four years, Louisiana saw unprecedented climate action at the state level with the creation of a Climate Initiatives Task Force by Gov. John Bel Edwards. Now, advocates are preparing for a regression from gains made under Edwards because, they think, Landry will deregulate the oil and gas industry and halt efforts to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions. Environmental advocates said that Landry’s administration will be more detrimental to the climate and environment than previous conservative administrations, such as Bobby Jindal’s. 

And they say that his governorship couldn’t come at a worse time.

“We’re in for a rough ride,” said Charles Pfeifer, political chair for the New Orleans chapter of the Sierra Club. “There’s no doubt he’s going to fully push oil and gas. … Louisiana has clearly always been on that path and needs to steer away from that, but under a Landry administration, that’s not going to happen.”

Advocates like Pfeifer say they have plenty of reasons to believe that Landry’s administration will further ease what critics say is an already lax state regulatory regime, the most recent being the people he has chosen to lead his transition team. 

In late October, Landry announced 14 councils that will aid in the transition — including groups focused on environment, energy, chemical and land management — and named the chairs of those councils. Among them are oil and gas industry veterans, including one who has worked with Landry previously on matters pertaining to the industry. 

Joel Broussard, chair of the Agriculture, Fisheries & Land Management transition council, was the CEO of a fracking company called U.S. Well Services until 2022. Gray Stream, chair of the Energy, Chemical, & Maritime Industry council, owns a carbon capture and storage company and wants to be a leader in that field, according to the company’s website. Tony Alford, one of the chairs of the Coast & Environment council, founded an anti-union, Houma-based group called Concerned Citizens for the Community.

And lawyer Tim Hardy, the other chair of that council, was hired by Landry to represent the state in failed negotiations with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency investigation into environmental racism in Cancer Alley — the 85-mile strip between New Orleans and Baton Rouge where petrochemical plants disproportionately dirty the air of predominantly Black neighborhoods. At the same time, Hardy was working for Formosa Plastics, one of the main subjects of the EPA investigation.

Calls and emails to members of the Landry transition committee were not returned by publication time.

“In my view, it signals that Jeff Landry will continue to have very close ties to the oil and gas industry and to other industries that either oppose or often resist policy changes that would address climate and environmental concerns,” said Jackson Voss, the climate policy coordinator for the Alliance for Affordable Energy, a New Orleans group that advocates for affordable and environmentally responsible energy.

During and prior to his gubernatorial run, Landry has repeatedly signaled his friendly relationship with the industry. He served on the board of Harvey Gulf, an offshore drilling supplier led by his close political ally Shane Guidry, until just after he announced his run for governor. Earlier this year, he sued the EPA to stop the Cancer Alley investigation, even as negotiations between the state and the federal agency were ongoing. The EPA dropped its Cancer Alley investigation about a month after Landry filed the suit. 

And just weeks before the October election, he teamed up with the American Petroleum Institute, the country’s largest oil and gas lobbying firm , and Chevron to sue the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the Department of the Interior to get them to expand the amount of land being sold for offshore drilling.

Throughout Landry’s time in Congress and as the state’s attorney general, the industry has been his largest donor, giving nearly $480,000, according to campaign finance reporting website OpenSecrets.org. While in Congress, Landry infamously held up a sign that read “Drilling = jobs” during a speech on jobs by President Barack Obama. He’s also called climate change and global warming a hoax.

His election to Louisiana’s governorship comes at a crucial time in the fight to mitigate the worse impacts of climate change, advocates said. International climate experts said the global community has until roughly 2032 to slash emissions enough to avoid the worst effects of climate change. Landry could be in office for the entire time remaining in that forecast.

Louisiana has the fifth highest carbon dioxide emissions per capita in the country despite being the 25th largest state by population, ​​according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, so advocates say it is crucial the state move toward decarbonization.

“I don’t see any way he’s going to be helping cut back on oil and gas. There’ll probably be more of the same,” Pfeifer said. “And really the whole world needs to be taking action now.”

Over the next four years, environmental and climate organizations in Louisiana said they will oppose any state regulations that lead to more pollution or carbon emissions and push for climate action while focusing on what progress can be made on the local level with federal support.

Consumer tax credits, loans and some grants, such as project and categorical grants for green infrastructure projects, can bypass state government and go directly to local communities, nonprofit groups and individuals through the Inflation Reduction Act passed by Congress last year.

“We’re going to continue to push for changes that allow for renewable energy to be adopted in Louisiana,” Voss said, “while also encouraging the public to become more active in these fights whether it’s at the Public Service Commission, the Louisiana Legislature or elsewhere.”

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Veteran journalist Drew Costley (they/them/theirs) is joining Verite News to cover a variety of topics with a focus on health, climate and environmental inequity. Before coming to Verite, they reported...