Gov. John Bel Edwards met with United States Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette on Wednesday to discuss the long-term impacts of Hurricane Laura on the energy industry in Louisiana.
Edwards said that he and Brouillet are working to get the energy sector in the state back online.
"This is critically important for us because energy drives Louisiana's economy and Louisiana's energy drives the country," said Edwards.
He pointed out that just over half of the nation's refining capacity is located along the Gulf Coast.
He added that the COVID-19 pandemic, the volatility of the oil and gas markets and Hurricane Laura has converged to create a very challenging situation for the state.
Edwards said that it also creates an opportunity for energy in the state moving forward even if it looks different than it has in the past.
Brouillette said that energy makes up the first 8% of the nation's GDP and that everything in the nation's economy begins with energy.
Brouillette said that the state's recovery depends on the restoration of electricity and other forms of energy. He said that even though about 75% of the state's energy has been restored it will take a lot more to restore the rest due to the damage to the infrastructure.
The governor said that he was working with the energy secretary to request community development block grants from congress for disaster relief in the state, as well as other proposals that can help Louisiana and the energy industry.
Edwards said that Brouillette had helped take advantage of power generation in neighboring Texas to "act as an extension cord" to get power partially restored in certain parts of Calcasieu Parish and Southwest Louisiana.
Edwards also said that Brouillette was helping to source transformers, transmission towers and other stockpiled infrastructure components from all over the country to help with power restoration in Louisiana.
The meeting was held virtually through Zoom following a roundtable discussion with energy industry leaders.
Brouillette said that he had been authorized by President Donald Trump to see how the Department of Energy could help with hardening energy infrastructure across the state to make them more resilient in preparation for the next storm.
The governor said that several chemical manufacturing facilities in Southwest Louisiana had closed ahead of the storm and that while they did not suffer as much damage as other facilities, it would take several weeks to restore power to them.
Aside from the damage and power loss, those facilities are facing other issues with restoring operations like getting workers to return after many of their homes and residencies were damaged or destroyed by the storm.
Brouillette said that he spoke with several of those companies who said many of those facilities did not receive permanent damage.
"It’s a bit of mixed blessing in that the pandemic has suppressed demand sand these facilities have built up their inventories, so that will give refineries time to get back on line," he said.
Brouillette said that the biggest challenge now is helping workers repair their homes so that they can get back to work.
Brouillette also said that the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve is functional and could be drawn down if the president asked.
The full briefing from Wednesday can be viewed below:
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