Jeff Landry appoints new Louisiana State Agency heads

Jeff Landry appoints new Louisiana State Agency heads
Under Gov.-elect Jeff Landry, an oil and gas industry executive will lead the state Department of Natural Resources, a college vice president will lead the Louisiana Workforce Commission, and a former National Guard colonel will lead the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

Placid Refining company secretary Tyler Gray, a former Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association president, will lead the Department of Natural Resources. Landry issued a statement Wednesday.

GOHSEP will be led by war veteran Jacques Thibodeaux, a colonel who retired from the Army National Guard and joined the U.S. Marshals Service. Thibodaux's emergency preparedness director.

Landry named GOHSEP assistant deputy director Neal Fudge Thibodeaux's second-in-command.

Meanwhile, Susana Schowen will lead the Louisiana Workforce Commission. Landry said Schowen, who worked in Louisiana Economic Development's workforce development office, is the Louisiana Community and Technical College System's education vice president.

“Today, I am proud to appoint such well-qualified, committed, and knowledgeable people to head GOHSEP, DNR, and LWC,” Landry stated. “I look forward to their great work for Louisianans.”

GOHSEP helps the state prepare for and respond to natural disasters and power outages. The Department of Labor's Louisiana Workforce Commission assists job seekers and distributes unemployment benefits.

Effective Jan. 10, the Department of Natural Resources will become the Department of Energy and Natural Resources, regulating oil, gas, and mineral use in the state. Plugging the state's abandoned oil and gas wells has been a key concern for that agency in recent years. Carbon capture and sequestration projects are also approved by the department.

The Louisiana Oil & Gas Association praised Gray's appointment.

“This appointment symbolizes a new era for our state’s oil and gas industry," the statement stated. "(Gray) has worked closely alongside LOGA over the years, and we know that he will be an incredible asset for our industry."

However, other environmentalists questioned whether someone with oil and gas sector ties should regulate it.

Healthy Gulf senior policy director Matt Rota said such a leader would struggle to "be impartial when weighing (environmental impacts) against economic benefits for oil and gas companies."

Gray said he would approach the position objectively in a statement. He said he would modernize and better serve the state as the Department of Natural Resources' secretary.

Others believed in his leadership. Gray serves on Gov. John Bel Edwards' Climate Initiatives Task Force and works for the oil and gas business.

His participation has included raising worries about whether the panel's ideas might affect the oil and gas industry. However, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana executive director Kimberly Reyher noted Gray's "engagement in that process is notable."

She hopes the new administration continues the task force's work.

“The oil and gas business must contribute to coastal management," Reyher stated. "We all share in the risk to losing the wetlands that protect us from storms, and to rising sea levels and increasing storm activity linked to climate change."
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