U.S. Energy Secretary: Laura delivered “tremendous hit” to Louisiana and nation

By David Jacobs | The Center Square

Hurricane Laura caused significant but not catastrophic damage to oil and gas infrastructure in southwest Louisiana, officials said Wednesday.

Restoring electricity and helping workers return home are bigger concerns, they said.

“This has been a tremendous hit to the state of Louisiana,” U.S. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said in a joint online news conference with Gov. John Bel Edwards. “It’s been a tremendous hit to the United States of America. The energy industry here drives so much of the economy of the world.”

He said he planned to tour a site in West Hackberry that holds part of the nation’s strategic petroleum reserves and suffered damage, but said other sites still have plenty of petroleum. At least two large refineries have been unable to reopen, but no shortages are predicted, in part because the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced demand for fuel, he said.

“Restoring power is our top concern right now,” Edwards said, adding that while 75 percent of the outages Hurricane Laura caused have been restored, 90 percent of Calcasieu Parish remains without electricity.

More than 1,000 transmission towers were damaged or destroyed, which is part of the reason why full restoration in the hardest-hit areas could take weeks. Edwards said Brouillette authorized an “extension cord” of emergency electricity from Texas to repower homes and businesses.

Edwards said he hopes Congress will be willing to approve Community Development Block Grant funding to help Louisiana fund rebuilding its infrastructure. He said he hoped to enlist Brouillette’s help along with the state congressional delegation.

Brouillette is an Assumption Parish native. The U.S. Senate confirmed his nomination to replace Rick Perry as energy secretary last year.