Around Washington for Monday, Aug. 26, 2013

by jordaN BLUM

jblum@theadvocate.com

Washington Bureau writer Jordan Blum
Washington Bureau writer Jordan Blum

The federal government announced Friday that it will initiate a new study to analyze the impacts of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster and other incidents in order to better assess future offshore oil-and-gas drilling.

The U.S. Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is launching “environmental impact statement” study as a research supplement for examining future offshore drilling lease sales off the coasts of Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Alabama.

Bureau Director Tommy Beaudreau announced the plans “in order to consider possible new circumstances and information arising from, among other things, the Deepwater Horizon explosion, oil spill, and response.”

The analysis “will focus on updating the baseline conditions and potential environmental effects of oil and natural gas leasing, exploration, development, and production in the (Gulf of Mexico),” Beaudreau wrote.

One of the public meetings on the topic is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sept. 12 at 1201 Elmwood Park Blvd., New Orleans.

Wealthy congressman

Rep. John Fleming, R-Minden, is the only Louisiana congressman to rank among the 50 wealthiest congressional members, according to The Hill publication’s annual list of analyzing financial records.

Fleming ranked 34th nationally with a net wealth of $10.7 million after the franchise developer and doctor saw “his holdings spiked in value” in 2012. Fleming also has more than a $1 million in Subway sandwich restaurants in northern Louisiana.

“The Louisiana Republican has interests in equipment rental, real estate and repair companies,” The Hill stated. “Fleming includes a number of business loans and mortgages, including a $500,000 mortgage on a second home in Washington.”

Fleming’s wealth still pales in comparison with some members of Congress.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., leads the pack with a $355 million fortune. Issa made much of his riches with the Viper car security system, according to The Hill.

Parishes in need

Three Louisiana parishes received mention this week in a Center for American Progress report that touted “The Counties that Need the Affordable Care Act the Most.”

Vermilion, Livingston and Ouachita parishes all rank in the top 50 nationally in counties with the highest rates of uninsured African-Americans in counties with populations of more than 25,000 people.

Vermilion Parish ranked 26th nationally with a 32.4 percent uninsured rate. Livingston Parish was 35th with 31.3 percent uninsured and Ouachita Parish in northeastern Louisiana came in 46th with a 29.5 percent rate.

Some of the state’s poorest parishes, such as East Carroll Parish near the Arkansas and Mississippi state lines, have less than 25,000 people and were not counted.

Gov. Bobby Jindal has refused to accept the Medicaid expansion that is part of the Affordable Care Act that could insure about 400,000 more state residents under the argument that it would be too costly for the state.

Grants for Louisiana

In her capacity as chairwoman of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, Sen. Mary Landrieu announced Friday $14.8 million in homeland security grants for Louisiana to go toward the state’s ports and infrastructure.

Landrieu, D-La., said in the announcement: “These grants will help ensure that Louisiana communities are prepared for whatever may come our way, whether natural or manmade disasters. This will also enhance our port security, helping to keep commerce flowing smoothly in Louisiana and throughout the country.”

The grants include $5.4 million to assist the state and local governments with emergency preparedness measures from the federal Emergency Management Performance Grants Program.

Another $5.8 million is for port security to enhance transportation infrastructure security activities and improve security plans among port authorities.

A $3.5 million grant goes to the State Homeland Security Program to support the implementation of state homeland security strategies. This includes planning, equipment and training for preventing, mitigating and responding to acts of terrorism and other catastrophic events such as hurricanes and floods.

Lastly, $97,000 is allocated under Operation Stonegarden, which is a national initiative that aims to enhance cooperation and coordination among law enforcement agencies that protect U.S. borders. Louisiana qualifies for the program because of its international water borders.

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