Louisiana Stafford Act Waiver tied up in Iraq showdown, Shell nixes Gulf LNG terminal and more
LOUISIANA STAFFORD ACT WAIVER TIED UP IN IRAQ SHOWDOWN
The 10 percent state and local funding match required by Stafford Act FEMA disaster grants was waived for New York after 9/11 and waived for Florida after Hurricane Andrew, but President Bush hasn't waived Louisiana's Stafford Act obligations post-Katrina and Rita. Now the possibility of a waiver is tied up with the latest supplemental spending bill for Iraq war funding.
The bill also contains a number of domestic spending projects, including more than $1 billion for levee protection and $25 million in Katrina- and Rita-related small business loans. Senate approval on the measure is expected today. Bush, however, is threatening to veto the bill because Democratic legislators have inserted language into the bill requiring that most troops in Iraq return home by March 31, 2008. ' Scott Jordan
STATE WEIGHS IN ON HORSE FARM BARN DEMOLITION
At press time Monday, the state's Office of Facility Planning & Control was expected to weigh in by Wednesday on UL Lafayette President Ray Authement's request to bulldoze the historic barn on the university's 100-acre Johnston Street horse farm property. Jerry Jones, OFPC's director, would not say which way his office ' which has assessed the barn's condition and potential liability for the university ' is leaning. Jones has been inundated with requests to save the structure, which some believe was constructed in the early 1900s (the university claims it was built circa 1940).
Community activists involved with the group Save the Horse Farm sent more than 200 letters in support of preservation, as did state Sen. Mike Michot and Rep. Joel Robideaux.
On March 29, Robideaux, whose district includes the Horse Farm property, wrote a letter to Jones requesting the state hold off on plans to demolish the barn. The group hopes Jones will deny Authement's request, at which time it will immediately move to construct a protective fence around the dilapidated barn while it raises funds for restoration.
"We will take everything into consideration as well as all the correspondence received before making a determination to approve the request for demolition," Jones says. It's unclear what happens if Jones says the building is worth saving, but if his office sides with Authement, the final decision still rests with the university president. ' Leslie Turk
SHELL NIXES GULF LNG TERMINAL
Shell Oil has dropped its controversial plan to build a $700 million Liquefied Natural Gas terminal in the Gulf of Mexico, 38 miles off the coast of Cameron Parish. Company spokesmen say the decision is based on a reassessment of the market, not the bad publicity the project received.
Shell's proposed LNG terminal came under fire shortly after it was permitted, when it was learned that the methods it would use to reheat subzero LNG posed a hazard to Gulf marine life and fisheries. Shell suffered harsh criticism from a coalition of fishermen and environmental activists, who fought a losing effort in court attempting to challenge Shell's permit. Mike Lane of the sportsman Web site rodnreel.com, one of the leading voices of opposition to the project, applauded the news. "Whether the decision was made due to economic or conservation considerations," he said, "today is a great day for fish in the Gulf of Mexico." Shell says it now plans to partner with other companies' LNG terminals, either existing or in the works. ' Nathan Stubbs
60 MINUTES TAKES ON BILLY TAUZIN
In a story examining the prescription drug industry's high-powered lobbying machine, 60 Minutes reporter Steve Kroft peppered former U.S. Rep. Billy Tauzin with questions on his role in passing the Medicare prescription drug benefit bill in 2004. The bill was viewed as a windfall for the drug industry, and shortly after it passed, Tauzin left Congress and took a lucrative job as chief lobbyist with Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. Unfazed by the questions, Tauzin told Kroft he was motivated to take the job because of his own bout with cancer and the innovative drugs that helped save his life.
When Kroft quoted Congressman Walter Jones as saying the bill's passage was "the ugliest night I have ever seen in 22 years in politics," Tauzin quipped, "Well, he's a young member. Had he been around for 25 years, he'd have seen some uglier nights." ' NS
LOUISIANA JUMPS TO 41 IN PERSONAL INCOME
In 2006, the average personal income of Louisianians jumped 25.5 percent up to $30, 952 ' the biggest leap in per capita income in the nation. The increase moved the state from last to 41st in the country in a list of income statistics released by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Economists attribute Louisiana's huge jump to factors stemming from the 2005 hurricanes, including a mass exodus of residents, many from lower income families, and a booming economy from the rebuilding effort. Mississippi, also hit by Hurricane Katrina, had the lowest per capita income of $26,535. The national per capita income grew 5.2 percent. ' NS
LAKE PEIGNEUR MYSTERY CONTINUES
Results of March 1 water bottom and sediment testing at Lake Peigneur from the state Department of Natural Resources' diver surveys and lab analyses to try to explain bubbling and frothy matter has turned up nothing. To date there have been at least eight episodes of bubbling water since summer 2005. While DNR Conservation Commissioner Jim Welsh announced that there is nothing harmful on the bottom of the lake, residents around the Iberia Parish site point to AGL Resources' two compressed natural gas storage caverns in the Jefferson Island salt dome beneath the lake. "Save Lake Peigneur" residents are opposed to AGL seeking permits to create two additional gas caverns in the salt dome and blame the facility for leaking. ' Mary Tutwiler
BOBBY JINDAL'S INTERNET FRIENDS
Did you know that U.S. Rep Bobby Jindal is a straight Gemini with average body type who makes between $150,000 to $250,000 a year? Those tidbits and more can be found at Jindal's MySpace.com Web page, as the gubernatorial candidate is the latest politico to utilize MySpace as a campaign tool. Jindal hasn't written any blog entries on his site but lists 98 Myspace friends. One note posted from a Jindal MySpace "friend" comes from thedeadpelican.com Publisher Chad Rogers, who says, "PLEASE win this election. It's been a rough three years."
Visit Jindal's MySpace page at www.myspace.com/BobbyJindal. ' SJ
[Editor's note: The Bobby Jindal campaign has informed us that the MySpace page referenced in the above item is not an official page and Jindal was not involved in creating or maintaining the Web page.]
CHURCH POINT, NOVA SCOTIA COMPANY REBUILDS HOUSES
The distinctive architectural style Acadian homesteaders brought with them to Louisiana came from Nova Scotia. Deep porches and steep-pitched roof lines that keep Acadian-style houses cool were designed to withstand the heavy snows of the northern climate. Now, 250 years after the Acadian emigration to Louisiana, two Canadian builders are offering to construct and ship prefab houses, built in keeping with local Louisiana architecture, to help hurricane victims rebuild.
Belliveau Building Supplies president Julien Comeau, of Church Point, Nova Scotia, is planning to send more than 300 1,500-square-foot houses to Louisiana in the coming year. The houses, produced by a Cape Breton company, come already wired, ready for plumbing and with windows already built in.
"In two weeks six men can have the kitchen, the bathroom, the finishing, the painting, everything done," Comeau told The Yarmouth County Vanguard.
Comeau is in talks with Habitat for Humanity to supply them with a 1,000-square-foot model as well. ' MT
FINALLY, A NEW ORLEANS REBUILDING PLAN
It took 19 months, but the New Orleans rebuilding plan announced late last week by New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and New Orleans Recovery Chief Ed Blakely is earning praise as the most sensible and practical recovery blueprint to date for the Crescent City. Federal Recovery Chief Donald Powell and Louisiana Recovery Authority Executive Director Andy Kopplin are among the plan's proponents ' marking the first time that local, state and federal officials appear united on a rebuilding and recovery plan for New Orleans. The plan calls for targeting selected sites in more than 17 areas including the Ninth Ward, New Orleans East and Lakeview, and using them as economic development corridors to encourage rebuilding and private development efforts around those areas. ' SJ