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The news out of the Gulf of Mexico is grim as the attempt by BP to cap their Gulf Gusher with a coffer dam failed. An oceanographer at Florida State University calculates that there is a lot more oil flowing into the Gulf than official estimates have shown thus far. He calculates the flow rate at five times the 5,000 barrels per day estimate. There's a widget on the Louisianad2d homepage that shows the amount of oil being spilled into the Gulf by the BP Gusher.
The still-developing catastrophe has so consumed Governor Jindal and his staff, that the Legislature is considering scaling back on the number of bills they will consider in the final month in the current session because the administraiton can't handle both the session and the disaster. Funny, I never heard about Governor Blanco becoming so distracted by Katrina/Rita that she couldn't take care of the state's business. In fact, as I recall, she managed all of the regular business and special sessions without batting an eye.
Team Jindal does not appear to be cut from the same cloth as was Blanco's seasoned team. In this case, the governor is flailing and so is his team. There's a leadership lesson here make that a lack thereof.
You know this governor is in trouble when he's taking his lead on the response from parish presidents.
Meanwhile, the state's various budget crises (current and coming fiscal years) remain unaddressed. But, Jindal has left no photo-op unvisited. There appears to be one he can't quite bring himself to mention to his supporters. You can learn which one that is after the jump in the main story.
If you've missed an earlier edition of Democratic Louisiana, we have an archive page. Here's the link.
Thanks for reading!
Mike Stagg, Editor
AP: Unlike Bush, Obama has been on top of this disaster
Desperate conservatives, hoping to both revise the historic record of George W. Bush's indifference and incompetence in the wake of Katrina's floods and to damage President Barack Obama, floated the idea in recent days that the BP Gulf Gusher is "Obama's Katrina."
The idea is ludicrious on the face of it to anyone who has paid attention to the unfolding catastrophe and the federal response to it.
Just for good measure, though, the Associated Press has conducted a thorough analysis of the federal response since the April 21 blowout at the BP drilling site. Their conclusion:
While the Obama administration has faced second-guessing about the speed and effectiveness of some of its actions, a narrative pieced together by The Associated Press, based on documents, interviews and public statements, shows little resemblance to Katrina in either the characterization of the threat or the federal government's response.
Here's a pretty great take-down of the entire notion that there is any similarity between the two disasters beyond georgraphy.
Point four is worth a full quote:
Bush slept, and New Orleans wept; Obama was on the case from Day 1. Here’s a timeline of the days before and after Katrina. It shows that 3 hours after first reports of levee breach, Bush was making a speech somewhere (“My Pet Goat,” anyone?) and 12 hours after, Rumsfeld was at a baseball game. The governor of Louisiana made a desperate plea for help at 8pm on the 29th; Bush went to bed that night without responding. The next day, he went on vacation. Three days later a campaign had begun to blame local officials.
By contrast, the Coast Guard was on the scene within hours of the explosion at the oil rig; the DepSec of Interior was there the next day, and coordination with local officials and with BP have been constant from the beginning.
If anyone tries to lay this line of bull on you, set them straight!
Governor fights his own policies in BP Gulf Gusher
As the catastrophe that is the BP Gulf Gusher unfolds, Governor Bobby Jindal is finding that he is scrambling to deal with forces that he and his allies did much to unleash. The governor has met the enemy and it is himself or, at least, the product of his earlier work.
As Congressman from Louisiana's First Congressional District, Jindal was the leading House proponent of the legislation that opened up that section of the Gulf of Mexico where the BP well now gushes thousands of barrels of oil per day into the open water, threatening Louisiana's economy and the fragile ecology of our coastal wetlands.
There was a time when Jindal was fighting with Senator Mary Landrieu over who should get credit for opening up this area to drilling and the higher royalty rates that production in those waters would bring to Louisiana. That argument seems to have gone quiet in recent weeks as the damage from the BP accident mounts.
Now, after years of downplaying or ignoring the adverse environmental impact of the oil and gas industry on the state, Jindal is embracing a radical strategy to hurriedly buildup barrier islands by dredging the Gulf to fill in gaps between barrier islands in a desperate attempt to prevent the oil from the underwater gusher from reaching the state's coastal estuaries. Consistent with his past, though, Jindal wants to launch the work without an environmental impact study.
The idea to restore the barrier islands has been around for years, but Jindal never took up the cause even back in his first year in office when the state had a budget surplus.
Now, with the state strapped for cash and confronted with an economic, ecological and environmental catastrophe that he and his energy buddies long maintained could never happen, Jindal and Plaquemines Parish President Billie Nungesser will meet on Monday to pitch their plan to BP executives and the Coast Guard.
This lunging from position to position is evidence that protection of the coast and environmentalism is new to Jindal. The moves smack of having no grounding in the subject matter. The proposed solutions illustrate a lack of understanding of the complexity of the issue and the hazards that the proposed solutions entail.
The oil that once fed Louisiana's government and families is now eating Bobby Jindal's lunch.
Moving Day at The Office
The clearest sign that the Jindal administration was completely unprepared for an incident like what has become the BP Gulf Gusher can be found in a bureaucratic move made at the start of the current fiscal year. That's when Jindal moved the Louisiana Offshore Oil Spill Coordinator's Office out of the Office of the Governor and down into the bureaucracy of the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections.
According to the LOSCO website, "LOSCO’s primary function is to ensure effective coordination and representation of the state’s interests in all matters related to spill response and prevention." It is worth noting that the homepage of the LOSCO site has not been updated since 2006.
One area of the site that has been updated is the "Contact/Staff" page, which was updated on April 30. There the physical location of the office is given as the Department of Public Safety & Corrections' Public Safety Services office near the Baton Rouge airport.
Jindal buried LOSCO so deep in the bureaucracy that it is not mentioned anywhere on either the full Department of Public Safety and Corrections site, nor on the Public Safety site run by the Louisiana State Police.
It was not always like this.
State Representative Sam Jones of Franklin headed the LOSCO office in the administration of Governor Kathleen Blanco. Jones told The Advocate that the move demonstrated a lack of institutional knowledge on Jindal's part.
“The onus being who responds to a disaster? The governor,” said Jones, D-Franklin, one of former Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s closest aides.
Jones said the oil spill coordinator now must navigate DPS’ hierarchy before reaching the governor’s ear.
State Police Col. Mike Edmonson, who oversees DPS, confirmed Jones' analysis of the layers of bureaucracy now between LOSCO and the governor, but denied there was any delay in getting information to the governor. Edmonson said he advises the governor based on information from the staff at the Oil Spill Coordinator’s Office. “I know what’s going on. I’m briefed every morning,” he told the paper.
Edmonson told The Advocate that Roland Guidry, the head of the Oil Spill Coordinator’s Office, is on the ground responding to the disaster. What does that mean? Is he deploying boom or holding Jindal's jacket?
Click here to continue reading.
Democrats oppose return to federal open primaries
Louisiana Democratic Party Executive Committee has announced it’s opposition to HB 292, a bill that would require a return to ‘open’ primaries for federal elections in Louisiana. Party Chair Buddy Leach released the following statement:
“Too often, ‘open’ primaries allow candidates on the political extremes to advance to the general election. We believe that closed party primaries are the best way to ensure that Louisiana voters are offered a reasonable choice between mainstream candidates for federal office. A return to ‘open’ primaries for federal elections would also mean that some federal officials would not be chosen until after a December run-off election, denying members of our congressional delegation the seniority and influence they will need to fight for middle-class families in Louisiana. We urge all Democratic members of the Louisiana Senate to oppose HB 292. “
The bill has passed the House and a Senate committee. Governor Jindal has said he will sign the bill if it reaches his desk.
Democrats raise fairness issue on reapportionment
Democratic members of the Louisina Legislature have called into question the fairness of the political and racial balance of the committee that will formulate the reapportionment plans for the House and Senate.
According to The Advocate, Senator Karen Carter-Peterson raised the issue of the balance of the House Governmental Affairs Committee with four members of the U.S. Justice Department who visited with legislators to discuss reapportionment on Wednesday.
The House committee has 19 members, only four of whom are Black. The party split on the committee is 12 Republicans, six Democrats, and one no-party.
Republicans and conservatives have made clear that they intend to use the reapportionment process to leverage population shifts resulting from the storms of 2005 to push a political realignment in the Legislature.
The Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority was set up expressly for that purpose in the House. The Louisiana Family Forum is pushing a plan that would hit a GOP trifecta, driving moderate Democrats out of the Senate, under-representing African Americans, and boosting the prospects of conservative whites to win election in about 20 of the Senate's 39 districts.
Assistant U.S. Attorney General Stephen Perez told lawmakers that the make up of the committee developing the reapportionment plan would be one of many elements reviewed by Justice Department officials when a plan is submitted for approval next year. He urged the Legislature "to err on the side of inclusion" in the make up of the committee.
The imbalance in the House committee was made worse by a recent retaliatory shuffling of committee assignments by Speaker Jim Tucker after the vote on the new Speaker pro tempre of the House. Unless Tucker takes steps to rectify both the racial and party imbalances on the committee, it could subject the reapportionment plan that comes from the committee to court challenges.
Campbell to politicos:
Oil talk is cheap; Let's see action
Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell has issued a call for all Louisiana politicians currently grandstanding on the BP oil gusher to back their tough-sounding words with deeds that can help make Louisiana recover from the current developing catastrophe, as well as damage inflicted on the state's coast by the oil and gas industry over decades of drilling and pipeline activity.
In his statement, Campbell provides a useful history of how we got here.
Campbell issued the call on Thursday in a statement released through his office. Here is Commissioner Campbell's statement in its entirety:
"Watching the parade of chest-thumping Louisiana politicians jumping on British Petroleum for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, I want to ask: Where have you been?
"We have known for years that offshore oil and gas activity has caused at least a third and possibly even half of the destruction of our coastal wetlands. Yet not a single major political leader, with the exception of Governor Dave Treen and me, has called for major oil companies to be held accountable.
"I’ve got two simple tests for our newly courageous statewide elected officials, Members of Congress and Legislature. Would you join me in calling for the repeal of the 1995 Royalty Relief Act, which has waived billions of dollars in royalties owed the American people for the deepwater drilling in the Gulf?
"And would you support Senate Bill 432 in the Legislature to provide equal tax treatment for all oil and gas processed in Louisiana, foreign and domestic?
"Let’s re-impose federal oil royalties at a certain price, say $40 per barrel, and dedicate royalties collected when oil is more than $40 to restoring the damage from the BP Deepwater Horizon spill and the broader harm to our wetlands from offshore oil activity.
"And let’s finally modernize Louisiana’s 90-year-old system for taxing oil and gas to recognize that 90 percent of the oil and gas processed in our state comes from foreign or offshore sources and is not taxed despite the heavy environmental cost it inflicts on us and all the tax burden falls on in-state producers.
"As they say in the country, these oil and gas revenue issues are “where the mule jumps the fence.” Railing against BP or the federal government for their response to the spill is empty words if you don’t back it up with a real plan to restore coastal Louisiana.
"'Royalty Relief' has its roots in Louisiana. It was authored by senior members of the Louisiana Congressional delegation in 1995: Senators Bennett Johnston and John Breaux and Congressman Billy Tauzin. They wanted to encourage production in the Gulf when oil prices were low. Their bill waived the mineral royalties normally paid to the American people, who own the resources.
"The companies drilled in the deep Gulf waters and made record profits when oil prices went sky-high. Mysteriously, the legislation has no trigger that re-imposes royalty payments at a certain price level. Thus the American taxpayer in addition to taking a hit at the gas pump has been losing billions of dollars in royalties that could help restore the Gulf or balance the federal budget.
"I invite my fellow Louisiana politicians to join me in calling for oil companies to pay fair royalties to the taxpayers and accept responsibility for damaging our coastline. When scientists say a third or up to half of the damage to the coast is due to oil exploration, how can our leaders remain silent? When oil companies do environmental harm on land, as in the Haynesville Shale in north Louisiana, they are held liable. Why should it be any different in our coastal areas?
"When it comes to the BP oil spill of 2010, talk is cheap. If Louisiana, 'the Oil State,' leads the charge to restore federal oil royalties and reforms state oil and gas taxation, it will tell the nation that we truly want to free our politics from oil-industry domination. The now-retired Mr. Tauzin, in particular, can play a leadership role in fixing what he did in 1995. He has vowed to spend his remaining years helping south Louisiana fight off global warming. This would be a good place to start."
Public Service Commissioner
Click on the logos below to view the special sections of these news organizations dedicated to coverage of the BP Gulf Gusher: