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Jul 14, 2010
Gov. Jindal Announces "Agenda For Revitalizing Coastal Louisiana"

NEW ORLEANS – Today, Governor Bobby Jindal announced his “Agenda for Revitalizing Coastal Louisiana,” which sets a pathway forward for restoring Louisiana’s coast through four priority initiatives: implementing a coastal restoration plan, certifying Louisiana’s seafood and getting fishermen back on the water, lifting the moratorium so Louisiana can refuel America and holding BP accountable until Louisiana’s wildlife, air and marshes are restored.

For the announcement, Governor Jindal was joined by Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, St. Bernard Parish President Craig Taffaro, St. Tammany Parish President Kevin Davis, Terrebonne Parish President Michel Claudet, Lafourche Parish President Charlotte Randolph, Jefferson Parish President Steve Theriot, Jefferson Parish Councilman John Young, Jefferson Parish Councilman Chris Roberts, Grand Isle Mayor David Camardelle and Lafitte Mayor Tim Kerner.

Governor Jindal said, “Many times in this disaster I have been asked if Louisiana will ever recover. Will we ever be the same? Will we still be Sportsmen’s Paradise even after the leak is capped? Will our communities and our families triumph over this catastrophe? The answer to these questions is simply – Yes.

“There is not a doubt in my mind that we will recover and restore our coast and our wetlands to not only be Sportsmen’s Paradise again, but to be an even more plentiful source of abundant natural resources than ever before. I am convinced of this because I know Louisiana. We are resilient people and we will persevere. I have stood with you and worked alongside you as we rebuilt from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and then again after Hurricanes Gustav and Ike.  We will continue to thrive in what is absolutely the most blessed state and the richest and most bountiful land in the world.

“The work is far from over. We will absolutely not rest until every drop of oil is off of our coast and off of our shores, and our fishing and oyster industry and our ecosystem is 100 percent restored.  And let there be no doubt. We will be restored. We will be revitalized.

“The Agenda for Revitalizing Coastal Louisiana will be our path forward as we restore coastal Louisiana and come back better than ever before from the effects of this oil spill. Our way of life will once again flourish.

“We are inviting the state and the nation down here to be a part of another great comeback. You saw the Saints win the Super Bowl just a few months ago after years of struggles and hurdles. We will absolutely be victorious over this oil spill. We are well on our way to being the best place in the nation to raise a family, get a high-paying job and a great education.  The country watched our coast as the oil hit and we want them to come here and visit or even move here to be a part of another historic revitalization in Louisiana.

1. Implementing A Coastal Restoration Plan

In the last five years, coastal Louisiana lost an estimated 225,000 to 250,000 acres of land – which is equivalent to six and a half times the size of Washington, D.C. The replacement cost of these lost coastal wetlands is estimated to be over $15 billion, which is an estimated $65,000 an acre for restoration. 

Since the 1930s, when levees were installed on the lower Mississippi River system, Louisiana has lost an average of up to 29 square miles of coastal lands annually.  This means that every day since the 1930s, the state has lost coastal wetlands that will cost an estimated $3.3 million a day to replace. Nearly 29,000 days have passed since the early 1930s and total replacement costs since then is now estimated to be about $96 billion.

Governor Jindal said, “Today – we are looking ahead at our priorities to help our state not only recover from this environmental catastrophe, but to restore our ecosystem so it is even stronger and more resilient than before.  The first main component of this Agenda to Revitalize Coastal Louisiana is to simply implement the $9 billion in coastal projects that have already been authorized by the U.S. Congress for construction.  These ready-to-go projects are stuck in the ditch due to a lack of federal funding from the federal government, despite the fact that hundreds of millions of dollars have been dedicated to these efforts by the state.

“Indeed, a total of 18 multi-million dollar coastal restoration, hurricane and flood protection and freshwater diversion projects have already been authorized for construction. We need the federal government to fund these authorized projects as soon as possible so we can get to work on restoring our coast.

“As a response measure to this oil spill, we were able to develop and begin construction on a $360 million plan for six segments of sand berms to provide a barrier against the oil in only six weeks. We went from open water to construction of a major project in just six weeks and today we have one of the nation’s most intense dredging projects underway to protect our coast. The state was able to take action on these projects quickly, and I know the federal government can also work to remove the red tape and the obstacles that prevent coastal leaders and the state from quickly jump-starting important coastal restoration projects.”

The Governor said he is working with coastal parish leaders and the state’s federal delegation to ensure that these projects are immediately funded through a variety of funding mechanisms:

  •  First – The state is asking a commitment of $250 million from previously-appropriated mitigation funds for hurricane protection repairs related to Hurricane Katrina to be dedicated to key restoration projects immediately.
  • Second – Louisiana is requesting an immediate investment from BP to begin addressing Natural Resource Damage Assessment remediation actions through coastal wetlands recovery and restoration.
  • Third – The state is asking for the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act funding to be moved up to the current fiscal year rather than have the federal government wait until 2017 to share these funds with the Gulf states.
  • Fourth – Part of funding these authorized coastal protection projects should also come from annual federal resource agency funds for construction of the above projects.

Governor Jindal added, “This investment in our coast must be supported by also eliminating federal policies that conflict with coastal restoration projects. Each year, the Army Corps of Engineers spends hundreds of millions of dollars dredging navigation channels in south Louisiana so over 30 states can import and export maritime commerce. The material dredged from these channels is then dumped in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico rather than placed back into our coastal area where wetlands could be restored.  It is estimated that if dredge material were placed in our coastal area, we could build 12-16 square miles of land annually.”

2. Certify Louisiana’s Seafood and Get Fishermen Back On The Water

Governor Jindal said, “Louisiana is home to some of the richest and most diverse seafood in the world, and we produce one-third of the domestic seafood consumed in the continental United States.   The BP oil spill has affected thousands of fishermen, seafood processors, restaurants, and consumers across the country.  But we are here to commit to our people that our way of life will once again flourish.”

Despite the Deepwater Horizon event, nearly 50 percent of near-shore Louisiana waters are still open to commercial and recreational fishing.  The state is pursuing a long-term strategy to open the other half of Louisiana’s waters and get commercial and recreational fishermen back in their boats as soon as possible.  

First, Governor Jindal said Louisiana will re-open waters to recreational fishing as soon as the state can safely do so.  In an average year, more than 4.1 million recreational fishing trips originate from Louisiana’s coastal marinas. The Wildlife and Fisheries Commission will continue to determine when waters in the affected areas can be re-opened to recreational fishing. 

Second, with regard to commercial fishing, Governor Jindal said the state is continuously monitoring waters and seafood to expedite the re-opening of affected areas as soon as possible.  Louisiana has submitted proposals to BP to conduct a five-year fishery resource-monitoring plan and to increase testing and sampling.  Contingent on BP approval of this funding, Louisiana plans to conduct 400 samplings of shrimp, crab, oysters, and finfish each month in all coastal parishes and waters to guarantee the safety of the state’s seafood and fisheries and to complement the ongoing water sampling. The state will ramp up monitoring and sampling activities to expedite knowledge of fishery areas that are safe so Louisiana can open these waters and get fishermen back in their boats as soon as possible. 

Third, Governor Jindal noted that Louisiana submitted a long-term seafood safety plan to BP on May 29, 2010, to fund the creation of a Louisiana Wild Seafood Certification Program that will enable the state to oversee seafood processing from catch to retail.  This will allow for Louisiana seafood harvesters and processors to certify that their products adhere to best practices, guaranteeing quality for American consumers and demonstrating that people in Louisiana stand behind their products. Governor Jindal called on BP to immediately approve the funding for this long-term seafood safety and marketing plan. 

3. Lifting The Moratorium So Louisiana Can Refuel America

Governor Jindal said, “Secretary Salazar must quickly identify the specific concerns he has with oil production in the Gulf of Mexico and work with stakeholders to quickly address them so production can resume as soon as possible. There is no sense in waiting for some arbitrary date to come and go. Every day we wait is another day that we play into the hands of other countries looking to take American jobs and investment. Every day we wait is another day we further jeopardize our energy security. Every day we wait is another day that our coastal communities are the innocent victims of a larger agenda being advanced in Washington.

“We absolutely must tell Washington to do their jobs to make drilling safe instead of costing thousands of Louisianians to lose their jobs with a total shut down of deepwater drilling that didn’t even follow the safety advice of the federal government’s own experts. In Washington some seem to think that rigs will just sit around and wait until the federal government says they can drill again. In Louisiana, we know this is not reality.”

“These rigs are mobile and many of them rent at about $500,000 a day. When Washington says they can no longer drill in the Gulf they will leave the country – and some already have left for other countries like Egypt.  The first deepwater drilling moratorium the Administration issued was called ‘arbitrary and capricious’ and was overturned by a federal judge. Now – the Administration has issued a second moratorium.

“This second suspension of deepwater drilling is a clear sign that the Administration is unwilling to follow the advice of their own scientists and instead insists on crippling our energy industry, our coastal communities, and killing jobs. They have already lost twice in court, but instead of listening to these legal rulings they are trying to game the system by initiating a second moratorium and then asking the court to abandon their move to block the first moratorium. The ultimate effect of this second moratorium is the same as the first – to shut down drilling operations in the Gulf. We need to put an end to this policy and instead the federal government needs to ensure drilling is done safely.”

Governor Jindal also highlighted a number of facts to show the importance – for Louisiana and the United States – of producing energy in the Gulf of Mexico:

  • An estimated 33 percent of the nation’s domestic oil comes from the Gulf of Mexico. Eighty percent of the Gulf’s oil and 45 percent of its natural gas comes from operations in more than 1,000 feet of water – or deepwater.
  • Lafourche Parish alone serves around 90 percent of deepwater operations in the Gulf of Mexico. In Louisiana’s coastal communities such as Houma, Morgan City and Lafayette an estimated 1 in every 3 jobs is related to the oil and gas industry. 
  • The Louisiana Department of Natural Resources estimates that an average of two supply boats work every day with rates of $15,000 - $30,000 a boat. This means that suspension of drilling activity will result in a nearly $1 million loss per day in supply boat rental income. Estimates show that each drilling rig job supports four other jobs in Louisiana’s local communities.

4. Hold BP Accountable Until Louisiana’s Wildlife, Air and Marshes Are Restored

Governor Jindal said, “The fourth major component of our Agenda to Revitalize Coastal Louisiana focuses on the short-term actions we must take to hold BP accountable until all our water and land is free of oil and all of our industries and our workers are 100 percent restored.”

Clean Louisiana’s Water and Land & Restore the Ecosystem:

Under the federal Oil Pollution Act and the State of Louisiana’s Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act, the responsible party must compensate the public for the damages it causes to the natural resources of a state.  State and federal law allows state agencies to assess the extent of damages and put together a plan for implementation actions to restore the trust resources as the result of an oil spill incident. 

The Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator’s Office (LOSCO) and its trustee partners will continue to evaluate the extent of the injury to land, water and wildlife. The state will use its legal authority in the law to ensure that every drop of oil is removed and wildlife habitats are restored.

Taking Care of Louisiana’s People Until They Can Go Back to Work:

Behavioral Health

Governor Jindal said, “We must also take care of our people until we can put them back to work. Louisiana is currently facing an unprecedented behavioral health crisis as our families struggle with the devastating effects of the BP disaster on our coast.  More than a month ago, on May 28, we asked BP to fund mental health services to the affected region. Again, on June 28, we reiterated this request for $10 million in a letter to BP's COO, Doug Suttles.  We still do not have a response to these requests.”

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospital’s (DHH) crisis counseling teams have engaged and counseled more than 2,000 individuals and are reporting increases in anxiety, depression, stress, grief, excessive and earlier drinking and suicide ideation. Community-based organizations report similar findings. Left untreated, these symptoms can quickly develop into behavioral health problems that lead to the breakdown of the familial structures, domestic violence, and substance abuse.

The requested $10 million would support six months of continued outreach activities of DHH’s Louisiana Spirit program and provide therapeutic and psychiatric services through our locally-governed human services districts and community-based organizations.

Ensuring Claims are Met by BP

Governor Jindal said, “BP and the Gulf Coast Claims Facility must ensure that the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill claims administration process works efficiently and meets the needs of citizens, businesses and public entities affected by this disaster.   First and foremost, the new system must be fully transparent to the state and our citizens. Claims protocols must be clear and understandable to our coastal communities so that they can effectively access the system. We must understand how the new claims system will be administered and who will evaluate the claims. 

“Documentation requirements must be fair, consistent and communicated to the public and must recognize that this unprecedented disaster calls for significant outreach and creative solutions to help people and businesses receive the compensation they deserve. The appeals process must effectively ensure that claimants are given full opportunity to defend their claims and receive a fair resolution to disputes. Coverage of claims must be clearly defined and broad enough to factor in the direct and indirect financial impact of this event.”

In addition, Governor Jindal said the federal government and BP must resolve how moratorium claims will be paid. Governor Jindal said, “We have heard conflicting information on how this would be handled for many weeks – and whether BP or the federal government will be responsible for paying these claims remains unclear.  In fact, we have been contacted by a number of individuals who have received no assistance because BP has classified their claim as moratorium related even though BP and the federal government have failed to provide clear direction on the payment of this type claim.  Further, they have failed to provide any guidance on how the $100 million provided by BP for moratorium claims will be distributed.”

Worker Retraining and Placement

Governor Jindal said, “To meet the short-term recovery needs of our people we must also ensure that the coastal workforce displaced by the moratorium and the oil spill are prioritized by BP’s clean up efforts and that we create opportunities for the placement of our workers.”

The Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC) secured s $10 million National Emergency Grant to provide training to individuals and small businesses in impacted communities. The state considers this $10 million a down payment on the potential cost of full workforce recovery. LWC is currently identifying affected industries and employers along with individuals in those industries and temporary and long-term job opportunities.

State officials have been working to ensure that Louisiana’s coastal citizens impacted by this incident are hired by BP for clean up work. Louisiana has made multiple requests to BP over the last two months for a list of all of BP’s contractors and subcontractors and an accounting of the Louisiana citizens who have been hired by these contractors.

There are currently 17,000 applications in the LWC system for oil spill work. LWC is working with BP and the US Department of Labor to require contractors to post all jobs with LWC, recruit from LWC list of applicants, and to report their hires back to LWC. This will help to make sure locals are hired first and the state can maintain the pipeline of labor needed to clean up the oil in the months ahead.

LWC is currently conducting needs and skills assessments by industry and by area. Many dislocated workers have transferable skills and the state’s re-training efforts will be aimed at closing the gaps between existing skills and those needed for jobs that are in demand. Initial opportunities for dislocated workers will center on existing job vacancies. At any one time in the state, more than 5,000 openings are posted – many in the fields of health care, sales, administrative support, management, and transportation.

LWC will offer on-the-job training incentives to employers to hire dislocated workers.

Tourism and Recreation:

Governor Jindal said, “Finally, we are working to ensure Americans know that New Orleans and South Louisiana are still welcoming visitors with open arms. Our coastal communities and urban centers have much to offer.

 “We will continue to bang the drum that Louisiana is open for business, so that our hotels, restaurants, and entertainment venues continue to attract visitors from across the country and around the world.  The unique culture and experience of south Louisiana are alive and well. We are inviting the nation to visit.”

A multi-million advertising campaign is already underway to target traditional visitor markets and summer travelers through television, radio, Internet, and print media. 

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