U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, held the first of what she said will be a series of field hearings Monday in Lafayette, LA, to examine Outer Continental Shelf energy production and to identify what actions the federal government can take to maximize opportunities and minimize challenges there.

In a public meeting held at the Cajundome Convention Center, Landrieu heard from a series of speakers, including Acting Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Walter Cruickshank and Energy Information Administration Administrator Adam Sieminski. Representatives of several Louisiana companies called for deeper channels and more federal government investment in offshore drilling.

They also urged the Obama administration to expand offshore drilling to include federal waters off the East and West coasts and Alaska. Legislation that would require the administration to do just that was recently approved by the U.S. House of Representatives and is pending in the Senate (see Daily GPI, June 27).

The emphasis of much of the meeting was on the potential for job creation that would come with increased offshore drilling.

“Washington doesn’t either know or fully appreciate the oil and natural gas industry and its ramifications,” Landrieu told Lafayette’s KLFY-TV. “When we talk about creating middle class jobs, no industry does it better than this industry.”

Landrieu is in the midst of a tough re-election campaign in Louisiana. She is opposed by three Republicans — Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), State Rep. Paul Hollis (R-St. Tammany Parish) and Rob Maness — in a state that has a strong conservative faction outside of traditionally Democratic New Orleans.

Landrieu became chair of the powerful Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in February, saying she would move an inclusive, bipartisan agenda focused on job creation (see Daily GPI, Feb. 12).

Last year Landrieu and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the ranking Republican on the committee, introduced legislation aimed at capturing a greater share of the revenues from offshore oil and natural gas production for coastal states (see Daily GPI, March 20, 2013). The measure also would phase out the current congressionally mandated $500 million per year cap on revenues kept by Gulf Coast producing states.