Chemical association: Industry, government, public 'on the same team'
Since Thursday, there have been two fatal accidents at Ascension Parish chemical plants. Edward Flynn, vice president for health, safety and security with the Louisiana Chemical Association, says he understands that the public is concerned about safety, but says he's not worried about a backlash against the industry, because industry leaders, government officials, regulators and the public "are basically on the same team." "People rightly want the economic and jobs benefits that go with a healthy and growing chemical manufacturing industry," he says, "as long as the industry demonstrates it has safety as its core value." Flynn says it's too soon to say if any new safety measures will be implemented broadly in the wake of the accidents, as the investigations are just beginning. The Louisiana Bucket Brigade, an environmental activist group, says it surveyed 67 people in Geismar near where an explosion rocked the Williams Olefins plant Thursday. They say 24 people reported physical effects such as respiratory irritation, while 44 experienced mental health effects such as fear or anxiety. Anne Rolfes, the group's director, notes that both the Williams Olefins plant and the CF Industries complex in Donaldsonville, where a man was killed in an accident Friday, had been cleared for expansions prior to the incidents. "The lack of oversight at petrochemical plants in Louisiana is putting workers' lives in jeopardy," she says. —David Jacobs
KeyBank asks for another postponement of Perkins Rowe foreclosure sale
KeyBank National Association has once again asked a judge to postpone the foreclosure sale of Perkins Rowe that was set to take place Wednesday. In a one-page motion filed today, the Ohio-based lender simply says it "needs to postpone the foreclosure sale" and does not provide a reason. This marks the third time that KeyBank has asked for a postponement; at its request, previously scheduled sales in March and May were put off. As of this afternoon, U.S. District Judge James Brady had not yet ruled on KeyBank's latest request for postponement. Sources familiar with the 3.5-year-old court battle between the KeyBank and Perkins Rowe developer Tommy Spinosa predicted the June sale would be postponed, They have told Daily Report
that the bank's repeated postponements suggest that KeyBank may be trying to negotiate a deal with Spinosa. Meanwhile, in January, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to hear oral arguments in the foreclosure case of Perkins Rowe. The court set a hearing for the week of Aug. 5 to decide whether the U.S. District Court had jurisdiction in the case. Attorneys for Spinosa, who owes some $200 million on the mixed-use development to a consortium of lenders led by KeyBank, have argued repeatedly that the foreclosure suit should have been tried in state court.
Maginnis: A retreat would do Republicans good
When I attended Catholic High in the '60s, the senior class each spring loaded onto buses and went off to a three-day retreat at Manresa House, which still operates today in its antebellum setting on River Road in St. James Parish. There we observed the vow of silence (sort of) while attending lectures, praying, and meditating on the meaning and responsibilities of becoming young Catholic men as we approached the age of majority. This summer, Republican legislators are planning a retreat of their own. It won't be at Manresa, where the Jesuits have yet to come around on co-ed convocations. But there will be discussions and meditation on the opportunities and responsibilities of the GOP in its new age of legislative majority. Some prayers wouldn't hurt either. Silence will not be the rule—these are politicians—but leaders are hoping their gathering will not be as loud and rancorous as their last one in the bowels of the State Capitol in the final week of the recently ended session. Recriminations flew over how some Republican lawmakers were being disloyal by allying with Democrats, which compared in my day to the risk to our immortal souls of cavorting with Protestants. The spiritual challenge to the Republican majority is dealing with a distant yet controlling authority figure: Gov. Bobby Jindal. Read the full column here
. (John Maginnis publishes
LaPolitics Weekly, a newsletter on Louisiana politics, at LaPolitics.com.)
New development at Congress and Perkins OK'd
The Planning and Zoning Commission has approved a more than 10,000-square-foot commercial development that would include a boutique shop as well as a day care center and an elementary school at the intersection of Congress Boulevard and Perkins Road. The development, which also would include office space and a restaurant, next goes before the Metro Council at the July 17 meeting. Carla Schild, director of Country Day School of Baton Rouge, filed the application for approval. Schild did not immediately respond to a message left by Daily Report
seeking further details on the development. The Planning and Zoning Commission also approved a planned unit development concept plan for the Village at Riverwood, a proposed 600-acre mixed-use development on River Road south of LSU. That concept had been previously approved in 2007, but that approval expired when the project was put on hold; Riverwood developers say
it's now back on track. The commission on Monday also approved the final development plan for the Long Farm Village. —April Castro
'Real Estate Weekly': BTR seeks rezoning approval for auto auctioneer
Officials at the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport are asking the Planning Commission to rezone about 3.5 acres of undeveloped land on the north side of the airport to make way for an auto auction business announced last fall. The commission will consider rezoning the property off the south side of Blount Road at its July 15 meeting. The land is a part of the larger Aviation Business Park at the airport, which is also home to United Coca-Cola Bottlers and Express Jet Regional Jet Maintenance Center, as well as several government offices. Future tenants planned for the park include Loomis and All Star Chevrolet-North, among others. In October, Auction Broadcasting Co. told Daily Report
of its plans for an ABC Baton Rouge auction business at the airport, with company officials estimating they could move as many as 600 cars a week when fully operational. Officials said they planned on employing about 50 workers at the outse, and hoped to increase employment to about 100 by the end of this year. Get more local real estate news and views from the new Real Estate Weekly
B.R. Film Commission launches rebrand
The Baton Rouge Film Commission has launched a new website and unveiled a new logo as part of a rebranding of the group. Liza Kelso, the commission's assistant director, says the new website reflects the lessons learned by the commission since it was formed in 2007 by Mayor Kip Holden to be a liaison between the city-parish and the film industry. "Basically, we've gathered everything that filmmakers have asked of us over the years and have put it all together on the new site," she says. "It's about making that connection between the production and the business community as easy as possible." The new site has information on permitting, production essentials and the state's film tax credits as well as a production guide. It also supplies pertinent information for those who want to find work in the film industry or make movies, says Kelso. Local businesses that are interested in serving the film industry are encouraged to sign up to be included in the site's production directory. You can check out the new website and logo here
. —Steve Sanoski
Jindal is the Republican Party's problem, columnist says
In response to a guest column
by Gov. Bobby Jindal for Politico
today—in which the Louisiana governor once again rips his fellow Republicans—The Washington Post
's Ezra Klein says it's Jindal who is the party's real problem. "Jindal has gone from diagnosing what's wrong with the Republican Party to personifying it," Klein says. "The GOP's problem isn't that it insults the intelligence of the voters. It's that it insults its own intelligence." Klein says the GOP has "come up with a theory of liberal governance that has obviated the need for a theory of conservative governance." Jindal gives Republicans some reasons to take heart in his column, Klein says. The GOP has 30 governorships and took control of the House in 2010—and held it in 2012. But Klein says Jindal "omits the crucial fact that Republicans got 1.5 million fewer votes in the 2012 House elections than Democrats did." You can find the full column here
News roundup: I-10 expansion from Siegen to Highland opens … Cotton planting sets 2nd straight record low … Cazayoux joins Long Law Firm
Between the lanes: Traffic along Interstate 10 should flow more easily with today's opening of two additional lanes between Siegen Lane and Highland Road. The $60 million project expanded the interstate from four to six lanes. A similar expansion project on Interstate 12 from Juban Road to Walker is also expected to open later this summer. The Department of Transportation and Development says, "Drivers may still encounter periodic nighttime lane closures in the coming weeks as final construction activities conclude" on the I-10 project.
Row by row: Louisiana farmers have planted fewer acres of cotton than ever recorded—the second record low in a row. That had been expected. But the estimated 125,000 acres are 50,000 fewer even than what was predicted earlier this year. LSU AgCenter cotton specialist David Kerns says farmers are switching to soybeans and corn because prices are better and the crops are less expensive to grow. Farmers harvested about 225,000 acres of cotton last year.
The next chapter: Less than one week after resigning as U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Louisiana, Don Cazayoux has joined Long Law Firm. The firm announced Cazayoux's hiring today, and also says Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Lane Ewing Jr. will join the firm. Both will start in early July, the firm says. Cazayoux will "fight for consumers, businesses and taxpayers in complex cases, including the oil spill claims process," reads a release from the firm. "He will continue efforts to steadfastly eliminate Medicare and Medicaid fraud through whistleblower actions."