News Briefs

LUS' fiber-to-the-home gets national coverage, Advertiser publisher has no time for news and more


Persistent demand, high prices and technological advances have resulted in an increased number of permits being issued to oil and gas companies this year, according to data complied by the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources. Through September of this year, the state has issued 1,624 permits.

It's a far cry from the 7,631 permits issued in 1984, during one of Louisiana's fabled boom periods, but officials are confident the three remaining months of 2006 will yield unparalleled activity. There were 222 permits issued in June, which is the highest monthly total the state has seen since 1988. All of this activity seems to be concentrated in a certain region. "It looks like this is going to be another record year, and it's all thanks to north Louisiana," says Jim Welsh, the state's commissioner of conservation.

"The price of natural gas is a major reason why we're seeing this [activity], but it's not the only reason," Welsh adds. New advances in drilling technology are allowing companies to drill deeper than ever before, and they're taking those techniques back into north Louisiana to tap previously non-performing wells. "It's just amazing what they're finding out there," he says. He says the ongoing trend of increased permitting should be sustained in coming years by a few of the same factors bolstering the industry today. "As technology continues to advance, we'll keep finding oil," Welsh says. "No question." ' Jeremy Alford


"This is how big the money pressures are. I don't have time to think about the news because I'm worried about the money. I don't have time to think about who should be elected. OK?"

In a recent episode of LPB's program Louisiana Public Square, that's how The Daily Advertiser's publisher, Ted Power, responded to a roundtable participant who expressed concern over the control of local media by national corporations. The topic of the episode was "Consuming Media," focusing on media and media literacy.

At one point, when host and moderator Craig Freeman attempted to bring the discussion back to "profits trumping the news" for corporations, Power interrupted with this comment: "Profits aren't trumping news values. Profits are shaping what we cover, in a newspaper's point of view, as far as geography. The values are the same." ' R. Reese Fuller


Lafayette received major airtime in Bill Moyers' "The Net at Risk" report last week on PBS. While the crux of the show was the "Net Neutrality" battle ' where giant telecom and cable companies are spending massive amounts of lobbying money to try and kickstart legislation aimed at charging companies and consumers on a sliding scale for internet activity ' it also shone the spotlight on Lafayette's fight for LUS' fiber-to-the-home project.

City-Parish President Joey Durel, LUS director Terry Huval and a number of principals of the Lafayette Coming Together pro-fiber community activist group (Don Bertrand, Stephen Handwerk, Gob Williams, Layne St. Julien) all got airtime and made reasoned, strong arguments for LUS' fiber-to-the-home program. Huval was particularly compelling and detailed the all-out efforts of Cox Communications and BellSouth to derail the project. The most telling moment came in one sentence: when the reporter on the piece said, "Cox Communications and BellSouth declined to speak with us." Why didn't two nationally known companies defend their actions in Lafayette and promote their alternative plans on a national television forum? It doesn't take much reading between the lines to answer that question. ' Scott Jordan


The state has gradually been offering gap financing to hurricane-affected businesses over the past year, but earlier this month seven private banks were brought into the fold. In concert with federal money, the program now has more money available than what it has distributed in total since Katrina made landfall. Gov. Kathleen Blanco says she has committed $332.5 million in Community Development Block Grant funds to economic recovery, but only $55 million is ready to be rolled out. As other dollars are freed up in coming months, Blanco says more programs will be announced.

But for now, a new series of bridge loans are up for grabs with individual caps of $100,000. To avoid causing controversy, half of the related program's funds will be dedicated solely to hurricane-affected areas. "Many of our business owners still need capital to move their companies and Louisiana's economy forward," Blanco says. "This third phase of the Bridge Loan program continues to put cash into the hands of businesses working toward recovery." To date, the state has issued nearly $40 million in short-term, low-interest loans to small businesses. ' JA


After its tragically inept response to Hurricane Katrina, the Federal Emergency Management Agency clearly showed it was in need of a drastic overhaul. A reasonable No. 1 priority was ensuring that no one like Michael Brown ' a political appointment with no emergency management skills ' would ever be put in charge of FEMA again. So it was good news when President Bush recently signed a bill last week that allowed Congress to set higher job-qualification standards for FEMA directors, right? After all, Bush himself said the bill was "an important piece of legislation that will highlight our government's highest responsibility, and that's to protect the American people." He added that the bill "will also help our government better respond to emergencies and natural disasters by strengthening the capabilities of the Federal Emergency Management Agency."

There's only one problem: hours after he signed the bill, Bush quietly issued a signing statement saying he could ignore the new restrictions. Why bother touting the legislation if you're going to immediately neuter the heart of it? ' SJ


Louisiana's unique architectural heritage stands at risk after the winds and waters of last year's storms. CODOFIL has teamed up with the Office of Historic Preservation to provide grants of $5,000 to $45,000 to secure historic buildings made structurally unsound by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. To apply for the grants, buildings must be on the historic register or deemed eligible for listing. For more info, call (225) 342-0227 or (866) 406-7043 (toll free) or e-mail [email protected] ' Mary Tutwiler