The regular legislative session has ended, and one of its greatest accomplishments was a unanimously passed bill barring local municipalities from banning natural gas connections. That bipartisan measure, Act 46, is crucial for Louisiana’s economic recovery and growth.
While domestic natural gas has helped power America’s energy revolution and provides clean, low-cost energy to millions – some cities, towns, and counties in California and New York have enacted shortsighted bands on natural gas connections. Fortunately, Louisiana has followed the lead of Arizona, Oklahoma, and Tennessee to ensure that our municipalities do not do the same here.
Thanks in large part to the hard-working men and women in Louisiana, America has surpassed Russia and Saudi Arabia to become the world’s top producer of natural gas and oil; and we have helped to position our country to become a net energy exporter. According to the non-profit Empowerment Alliance, as a result of the abundance of clean natural gas, natural gas powers over 30% of America’s energy needs and we have reduced our energy trade deficit by 87%. Because of natural gas, America is well on its way to energy independence – a boon for our national and economic security.
The data here at home is even more striking. In 2018, which is the most current available data, nearly 1 million Louisiana residences and businesses relied on natural gas and nearly 33% of our homes used natural gas for their heating needs. Moreover, a whopping 69% used natural gas for electricity – the fifth highest rate in the country.
Indeed, the low-cost nature of natural gas is most critical for our working poor and low-income families. Households that use natural gas for heating, cooking, and other utilities pay an average of $879 less per year compared to homes using electricity. In Louisiana, where nearly 20% of our people live below the poverty line, that kind of savings can have a dramatic and life-changing impact.
What’s more: because it is a clean alternative to oil and coal and a far more efficient option than renewables like wind and solar, natural gas is contributing to cleaner air in our State and across our country. The United States is now enjoying its best air quality in the last half century, due in part to the rise of natural gas. Louisiana has experienced similar results on a smaller scale. From 2007 to 2017, carbon emissions have fallen in our State by nearly 5%.
So I applaud our House of Representatives and Senate for coming together and prioritizing this critical legislation. By acting to protect consumers from natural gas bans, all levers of our State government have done a great service for Louisiana’s residents.
Our State’s households and businesses will continue to have uninterrupted access to clean, low-cost, and abundant energy. And Louisiana will continue to play its part in powering the national energy revolution that has put us on the path to energy independence.
Jeff Landry is Louisiana Attorney General.