Congress, meeting in an emergency session, has approved a $10.5 billion supplemental emergency spending measure to fund the immediate relief efforts and restoration of infrastructure in the three hurricane-stricken Gulf coastal states, including repairs to energy facilities toppled by hurricane force winds and submerged in floodwaters onshore.
Senate lawmakers passed the emergency spending bill late Thursday, while House members approved the bill by voice vote Friday. House lawmakers said the $10.5 billion was just a “down payment” on what will be needed to rebuild New Orleans, LA, and other ravaged cities in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The spending measure is expected to be sufficient to fund the relief efforts of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FERC) and Department of Defense through next week, lawmakers said.
House leaders indicated that loan guarantees and some sort of stimulus package for the affected states would be forthcoming from Congress in the weeks and months ahead.
“It will take nothing less than a domestic Marshall Plan to rebuild our roads” and other infrastructure in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, said Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
“Not only will more money be needed, but much better coordination at the state and federal levels” will be required to rebuild, said Rep. Jim McCrery (R-LA), whose district, which includes Shreveport and Bossier City, was not damaged by Katrina.
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, had worked throughout the week with Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), who also sits on the appropriations panel, to assess the needs of the affected coastal states, and ensure quick passage of the emergency appropriations measure.
The measure had the “full and unwavering support” of Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) and Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) in the Senate, according to Landrieu.
The emergency legislation will provide funds for relief efforts in the affected states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, emergency assistance for farmers and funds to restore infrastructure, transportation, levees and roads, said Brian Richardson, a spokesman for the Senate Appropriations panel.
Energy relief also is “definitely” provided for in the measure, he noted. Funds will be earmarked to help restore electricity to the more than two million households that are without power along the Gulf Coast, and to help the oil and natural gas industry get back on its feet, Richardson said.
The Minerals Management Service reported Friday that 78% of gas production, or 7.25 Bcf/d, and 88% of oil production, or 1.33 million bbl/d, still were out of service in the Gulf. All told, Gulf of Mexico gas output has fallen by 49 Bcf since Aug. 26, and oil output has dropped by 8.76 million barrels over that period. The agency estimated that 328 platforms and 53 rigs remained evacuated as of Friday. Approximately eight refineries have been shut down along the Gulf coast as well.
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