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Can La. secure part of Exxon's $50B investment?

The News Star, January 30, 2018

By: Greg Hilburn

Exxon Mobil's top executive announced this week the company will invest more than $50 billion along the Gulf Coast and in other U.S. operations, but it's unclear whether Exxon will funnel any of that capital to Louisiana.

Louisiana's economic development chief said he's confident, but the head of the state's oil and gas industry association said Gov. John Bel Edwards has fostered a hostile environment for the industry.

"I'm very confident Exxon Mobil that has called Louisiana home for more than 100 years will see the value in Louisiana for additional investment," Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson said in an interview with USA Today Network.

Not so, said Louisiana Oil and Gas Association President Don Briggs, citing Edwards' support of lawsuits against the industry accusing it of causing the state's massive coastal erosion.

"This governor has a different attitude than I've ever seen in the office," Briggs said. "Right now, we've got a lot of checks against us, and it breaks my heart."

Exxon Chief Executive and Chairman Darren Woods said the investments will be made over the next five years and include increased oil production and new manufacturing plants, but wasn't specific about where new facilities would be built.

The company already employs more than 6,000 workers at its existing Louisiana facilities.

Woods said the investment was made possible in part because of President Donald Trump's tax cuts. Congress lowered the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent.

"At Exxon Mobil, we plan to invest more than $50 billion over the next five years to expand our business in the United States," Woods said in a blog post. "These investments are underpinned by the unique strengths of our company and enhanced by the historic tax reform recently signed into law."

The company said it plans to increase production in the Permian Basin in western Texas and New Mexico, which will provide cheap supply to its Gulf Coast facilities.

“With this production growth, we are well positioned to maximize value as increased supply moves from the Permian to our Gulf Coast refineries and chemical facilities where higher-demand, higher-value products will be manufactured,” said Sara Ortwein, president of ExxonMobil’s XTO Energy subsidiary Ortwein, in a press release.

Among those facilities are the company's chemical plant and refinery in the Capital Region, she said.

Pierson said his department will continue to engage with Exxon seeking investment in Louisiana.

"We have all of the ingredients to make our case," he said. "We have the work force and infrastructure with ports allowing global access as well as compelling incentives, certified sites and a great business climate."

But Briggs said his members disagree.

"When the governor came into office we were one of the most friendly states to do business," Briggs said. "Now we're and unfriendly state from an oil and gas perspective and listed as a 'Judicial Hellhole' (by the American Tort Reform Foundation).

"What kind of message do you think that sends?"