Washington Briefs for Feb. 4, 2013

U.S. Sens. David Vitter, R-La., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., butted heads a bit last week over the bipartisan immigration reform framework that Rubio is helping to lead.

Vitter was one of the first senators to express concern that the plan would end up largely as an immigration amnesty program.

Then Vitter went on Laura Ingraham’s conservative radio talk show and called Rubio both “nuts” and “amazingly na├»ve” for taking the lead on the plan.

Rubio is the son of Cuban immigrants and he is considered a top GOP presidential candidate in 2016.

“As soon as you give them a legal status, they are here legally forever and probably they’re citizens pretty darn soon after,” Vitter said. “And if Marco thinks no matter what happens or doesn’t happen on the enforcement side that’s not going to happen. I just think he’s nuts.”

Politico reported a Rubio aide responded, “David Vitter has done some nuttier things in his life.”

The comment was an apparent reference to Vitter’s past prostitution scandal.

Vitter criticizes EPA

In his new position as ranking Republican of the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee, Vitter has wasted little time in criticizing the Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA last week announced new standards and verifications for federal Renewable Fuel Standards in the wake of what the EPA called “high-profile” fraud cases.

Vitter called the announcement more “unicorn-like standards” being placed on renewable fuels production.

“EPA has been getting away with mandating exaggerated fuel standards based on a pie-in-the-sky wishes, and they persevere in ignoring the cold hard facts,” Vitter said in a statement.

Under the Renewable Fuels Standard, the mandated amount of cellulosic biofuel determines how much refiners, importers and blenders must use or purchase credits for each year to comply with the law.

Last week, a U.S. Court of Appeals found that the EPA was projecting too much production of cellulosic biofuel for 2012.

“Increasing the standard after their 2012 requirements were vacated is beyond ludicrous, and they continue to force refiners to either purchase even more gallons of product that doesn’t exist or pay a fine,” Vitter added.

La. landfill recognized by EPA

Speaking of the EPA, the agency recognized the St. Landry Parish Landfill for generating renewable energy from a local source, while protecting the climate, providing energy savings and strengthening the economy.

The St. Landry Parish Landfill is now home to a compressed natural gas project developed by the St. Landry Parish Solid Waste District.

This project helps fuel several sheriff’s vehicles and turns 50 cubic feet per minute of landfill gas into 250 gallons of gasoline equivalent, resulting in significant benefits in local air quality, according to the EPA.

The parish government uses the project to educate local residents and students about the environment.

The St. Landry Parish Landfill and seven other landfill methane utilization projects and partners from across the United States were recognized last week at the 16th annual Landfill Methane Outreach Program Conference in Baltimore.

FEMA awards La. grants

The Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded $28.7 million to Louisiana in disaster grants related to hurricanes Katrina and Isaac, including $4.3 million to East Baton Rouge Parish to remove and dispose of more than 500 tons of debris from Isaac.

The largest of the grants is $9.5 million to the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development to reimburse for emergency transportation of evacuees to shelters before, during and after Isaac.

The other sizable grant was $8.2 million to the LSU Medical Center of Louisiana in New Orleans for the replacement of building contents lost after Katrina.

The LSU Health Sciences Center’s Medical Center of Louisiana at New Orleans is a 23-building medical complex, operating two hospitals, multiple clinics and support facilities.

The other grants are: $2.7 million to the Louisiana National Guard for emergency protective measures from Isaac, $2.3 million to the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office to restore damaged building contents and equipment from Katrina, and $1.7 million to Plaquemines Parish government for repair of the elevated roadway on a secondary levee damaged because of Isaac.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who chairs the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, announced the grants that are coming from FEMA’s Public Assistance Program.

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