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The American Press - Senators Agree with Obama's Message

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Louisiana's U.S. senators said they were pleased that President Barack Obama put a focus on domestic energy production in his State of the Union address Tuesday and agreed the federal government should hasten the return of fossil fuel production in the Gulf of Mexico.

"I was glad to see the president focus on domestic energy production -- it is something we have been focused on in Louisiana for decades and it is one of the reasons that our state unemployment rate is significantly below the national average," Sen. Mary Landrieu said in a news release.

"However, the pace of drilling permits for the (Outer Continental Shelf) continues to be far too slow, maintaining uncertainty in an industry that employs hundreds of thousands of Louisianians and contributes billions of dollars a year to the U.S. economy."

She said she has been "pushing the administration to improve the speed, efficiency and transparency of drilling permits. I hope that the president is serious about improving this process so we can put America's energy coast back to work."

Sen. David Vitter said in a news release he "was very happy to see the president talk a fair amount about American energy as well as how it can grow American manufacturing. The question is if he'll be serious about that and follow up with action."

Vitter issued a three-point "test" to gauge the president's sincerity on energy policy.

"First, increase Gulf and other offshore production dramatically so we don't see more rigs leave the Gulf, as 11 have already done since 2010," he said.

"Get permitting in the Gulf up 40 percent from before the BP spill rather than down 40 percent, as it is now. Redo the five-year offshore lease plan so that it's double the last, not half as much as it is now."

He also called on the White House to "stop the EPA's unfounded, tabloid science attack on fracking," a process he said is "at the heart of the biggest U.S. natural gas and manufacturing opportunities of our lifetime."

The process of hydraulic fracturing involves injecting water, sand and chemicals into shale formations far underground to release gas trapped there. The Environmental Protection Agency has linked the practice to groundwater contamination.

Vitter's third test was for the president to give the go-ahead to allow the Keystone XL pipeline, which would connect Alaska's oil fields to the Gulf Coast. "This project is huge, especially for U.S. jobs and energy since it has needed on-ramps to get oil from the Dakotas and Oklahoma to Gulf Coast refineries."

The administration put the brakes on the project because federal officials believe there was not enough time to thoroughly study its environmental impact.

Landrieu said, "Jobs and strengthening our economy is priority number one. While our economy has improved significantly over the last year -- gaining more than 100,000 jobs in each of the last six months -- we are still not nearly where we should be."

She said to improve the economy of both Louisiana and the nation, "we must restore our coastal ecosystem, focus on producing more domestic energy and give our small businesses the support they need to grow and create jobs."

She had hoped Obama would have addressed the RESTORE Act, which would dedicate BP Clean Water Act penalties to Gulf states, and hopes "he will focus on this moving forward."

"Restoring and rebuilding our coastal wetlands is not just a local issue; it is crucial to protecting commerce that flows through the Mississippi River, benefitting our entire nation. I will continue to work with the administration and the many bipartisan supporters of the RESTORE Act to see this legislation signed into law."

Landrieu said she "was happy to hear the president address ways to help spur innovation and entrepreneurship and assist small firms as they continue to grow and create jobs."

She is chairman of the Senate Small Business Committee.

"I look forward to working with the president's Startup America initiative to help spur growth and job creation in our country," she said.

On government spending and taxes, Landrieu said, "I believe strongly that we must reduce wasteful government spending, but I also support asking those who make over $1 million a year to contribute a little more in taxes" in order to "help release the squeeze on the middle class, strengthen our economy, reduce our deficit and allow our country to make the investments we need for a successful future."

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