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Supriya's Visible Role
When it came time for the LSU Department of Chemical Engineering to plan its centennial celebration last week, it couldn't have asked for a better speaker than First Lady Supriya Jindal. A chemical engineer herself, Jindal spoke knowledgably about the 100-year-old department's nationally recognized research and the impact of the state's chemical industry. She also focused on a human element. "With 26,000 people employed by Louisiana's chemical industry, the sector generates $5.9 billion in earnings, creating $125 million in tax revenues," she said. "That's millions of dollars going towards schools and roads." It was just the latest in a long line of public appearances Jindal has made since her husband became a nationally recognized governor, and she has found a way to mix the ceremonial duties of her position with the political realities of her husband's job. For instance, Supriya Jindal has been touring the state reading books to school children, helping food banks increase their inventories and visiting hurricane relief stations. On the political front, she was in Pennsylvania late last month campaigning alongside Cindy McCain, the wife of GOP presidential nominee John McCain. — Jeremy Alford

 

Federal Energy Bill Flops
For all the passion that went into congressional debates over drilling and gas prices this year, lawmakers failed to pass anything that remotely resembles an energy bill. With the fall election upon us and a lame duck in the White House, it's increasingly unlikely that Congress will pass an energy bill before Christmas. Still, some legislative action this year suggests what Congress might do in 2009. For instance, the House passed an energy bill in September that would have opened more federal waters to drilling and invested additional dollars in alternative energy sources. Both sides of the aisle have called for that kind of mixed approach, yet the Senate has not passed the bill. Republicans complained that the House Democratic leadership authored the legislation with little input and that its drilling component was meager at best. A bi-partisan group in the Senate that included Sen. Mary Landrieu, a New Orleans Democrat, likewise pursued legislation to open up additional drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf of the Gulf of Mexico, but Republicans shuddered at the proposition of taxes on oil production. "[That] will only hinder production," says GOP Sen. David Vitter of Metairie. Rep. Charlie Melancon of Napoleonville says key players in both parties were unable to give because it's an election year. But Melancon, a Democrat who serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee, is hopeful that the post-election session of Congress will yield some sort of compromise. "We just need more people in the center," Melancon says. "Some people in the left wing of my party only want to talk about green energy and ethanol, while people on the far right believe the only answer is fossil fuels and won't even discuss emissions." The most noticeable gridlock this year was over drilling, or rather how much. Elsewhere, Congress last year passed and President George Bush signed an energy bill that seeks to combat oil market manipulation, increase vehicle fuel efficiency to 35 miles per gallon by 2020 and promote the use of more affordable American biofuels. — Alford

 

Chamber: We're No. 1
Louisiana has vaulted 41 spots in the Better Government Association's Integrity Index, making it to No. 5 in the country and behind first-place state New Jersey, then Rhode Island, Hawaii and Washington. The index, now in its second edition, ranks all 50 states on the strength of their laws that relate to transparency, ethics and accountability in government. After the first year of Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration, the jump was no surprise — but it did draw some criticism for not being big enough. LA Ethics 1, a branch of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, was immediately critical of the upgrade awarded by the BGA. "The reforms championed by LA Ethics 1, the statewide coalition of more than 50 business and civic organizations pushing for governmental ethics reform in Louisiana, should and will reflect a No. 1 ranking," says Adam Knapp, the chamber's president and CEO. Knapp complains that the BGA Integrity Index relies on the Center for Public Integrity's ranking of conflict of interest laws, which hasn't been updated since 2006. In its own press release, BGA officials stated Louisiana would have captured the top spot had the Center for Public Integrity's ranking been up to date. — Alford

 

Fourchon Fighting Feds
Port Fourchon, a conduit for 18 percent of the nation's oil supply, is more vulnerable to storm damage today than it was just a year ago. September brought with it back-to-back Gulf hurricanes that blew apart the port's jetties, rearranged its protective beaches and ripped to shreds an all-important seawall that protects more than 600 developed acres and a 700-acre expansion. The damage to the seawall alone amounts to roughly $40 million. But it's a relatively minor cost when considering the port's total economic impact to the U.S. oil and gas sector is estimated to be $63.4 billion, says Ted Falgout, who has been executive director of the Greater Lafourche Port Commission since 1978. Despite the strategic role Port Fourchon plays in the national energy chain, Falgout says FEMA hasn't yet acted with urgency in addressing the port's needs. "We have still not gotten FEMA to come over here and do a project worksheet to determine the economic damages, but my estimate is $40 million," Falgout says. "There's also another $12 million to $15 million in damage to the jetties and beach, but the seawall was totally destroyed. We have to rebuild that first line of defense. We are much more vulnerable to storm damage now than we were prior to hurricanes Gustav and Ike." Port Fourchon was temporarily shut down for a total of seven days between the two hurricanes. Based on financial conditions at the time, Falgout says $1 billion of oil per day was not reaching the market because Fourchon and the fields it serves were not operational. "There's still not 100 percent of production back up in the Gulf," he says. — Alford

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