Protesters disrupt meeting of oil executives in downtown N.O.

Protesters disrupt meeting of oil executives in downtown N.O.

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Protesters disrupted a gathering of oil industry executives downtown and were carried away in cuffs Friday (March 15).

The protesters said oil and gas interests are hurting Louisiana’s coastal environment, but industry leaders say they are misguided.

Oil and gas executives were meeting to discuss an industry they say has rebounded dramatically since the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.

“It’s not where it was, but we’re off the bottom,” said Scott Angelle with the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.

They say safety inspections have increased, as has oil production. And they say the industry is doing more to self-report potential problems.

"We are at 85% participation, we need to be at 100," said Angelle.

But in the middle of the annual meeting of the Mid Continent Oil and Gas Association at a downtown New Orleans hotel, protesters took over the podium, grinding the session to a halt.

“You are destroying the state of Louisiana,” chanted one protester.

For 20 minutes they held things up. Then police moved in with handcuffs to peacefully take them away.

The protest was similar to one two and a half years ago at an oil lease sale in New Orleans - one that which meeting organizers at the time say they were somewhat prepared for.

“We did alert hotel security. It’s unfortunate the way they were able to push their way in,” said Travis Gray with Mid Continent Oil and Gas.

The protest disrupted the oil and gas meeting just prior to a speech by congressman Garrett Graves, who believes protesters were somewhat misguided.

“Do you know where all the revenues come from for restoring the coast and levees? That’s energy revenue,” said Graves, R-La.

But the congressman admits the industry has had problems.

“There is no question that back to the 40s and 50s, there were mistakes made. I think there is an incentive for all of us to work together to make sure we have a clean environment and a restored coast,” said Graves.

He and others say the oil industry is too vital, and they pledge to work with those who want it to go away.

Nine protesters were handcuffed, escorted out of the meeting and issued summons. None was taken to jail.

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