Around Washington for Feb. 11, 2013

Richmond focuses on Mississippi River

U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond had a busy week developing new connections and partnerships in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Richmond, D-New Orleans, has focused on aligning himself with others in Congress whose districts benefit from the Mississippi River and the maritime industry.

Richmond’s new district stretches all along the river and Interstate 10 from New Orleans to northern Baton Rouge.

First, Richmond became one of the founding members and co-chairmen of the new Mississippi River Valley and Tributaries Caucus along with Reps. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo.; Collin Peterson, D-Minn.; and Rodney Davis, R-Ill.

“I have spent my life in public service advocating for the people of the Gulf Coast, and I am confident that the capable members of this bipartisan caucus will come together on a host of issues that will benefit all of our constituents,” Richmond said. “We can, will and must continue to prioritize our region.”

The Mississippi River Valley region covers approximately 41 percent of the nation and over 250 tributaries, according to the caucus. Agricultural products from the region contribute $54 billion annually to the American economy and represent 92 percent of the nation’s farm exports.

Richmond didn’t stop there.

He then joined with Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., to form the new Congressional Maritime Caucus.

“The maritime industry is the unsung hero of our nation’s economy,” Richmond said. “From Alaska to Puerto Rico, Louisiana to New York, every day this industry facilitates trade and delivers energy resources that support millions of jobs and pays billions in state and federal taxes every year.”

EPA taps 43 communities

The Environmental Protection Agency announced New Orleans and Caddo Parish count among 43 communities nationwide selected to help them meet their sustainability goals.

The technical assistance is offered through the EPA, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Transportation to help regions move forward with economic development and sustainable growth while safeguarding the environment and public health.

The assistance is being provided through EPA’s Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities program to communities in 27 states.

“If we want a healthier environment and a stronger economy, sustainable practices must be part of community development across the country,” said outgoing EPA Administrator and New Orleans native Lisa Jackson in the announcement.

“The EPA’s Building Blocks program helps communities invest in sustainable growth techniques, so they can plan for a better future. The short-term, targeted assistance we are providing will help stimulate local economies, while protecting people’s health and safeguarding the environment.”

Vitter supports watchdog group

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., said he is supporting a watchdog organization that litigates for private property rights and what Vitter considers a “balanced approach” to environmental regulations.

The Pacific Legal Foundation, which is Libertarian-leaning on the issue of property rights, is challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for designating 1,544 acres of private property in St. Tammany Parish as “critical habitat” for the dusky gopher frog.

“In recent years the Obama administration has launched an assault on private property rights with abusive tactics under the Endangered Species Act,” Vitter said.

“I support protecting endangered species and don’t want to see a species go anywhere near extinction, but in this instance in St. Tammany Parish, Washington bureaucrats are telling a private landowner that despite there being no frogs, his land is to be used as they see fit.”

Landrieu lauds health-care blog

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who chairs the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, is praising the launch of a new online blog dedicated to educating the public and small-business owners about the implementation of President Barack Obama’s health care law.

The new “Health Care Business Blog” was launched by the Small Business Administration at http://www.sba.gov/healthcare.

“Since the Affordable Care Act became law nearly three years ago, there has been a fierce and consistent stream of misinformation about the impact the law will have on America’s small-business owners,” Landrieu said.

“Because these efforts have created concern and confusion, it is important that small business owners and self-employed entrepreneurs have access to reliable, unbiased information about the law and what it means for them and their employees.”

Compiled by Jordan Blum, chief of The Advocate’s Washington bureau. His email address is jblum@theadvocate.com.