Washington Briefs for Monday, Sept 23, 2013: Delegation members rebuff coal policy

Washington Bureau writer Jordan Blum
Washington Bureau writer Jordan Blum

The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday proposed rules on new power plants to help reduce carbon emissions in the future and to slow climate change.

But critics argue the effort is part of the president’s so-called “war on coal” and would effectively stop new coal-powered plants from being built because the “clean” technology being required does not yet exist.

That’s a big red flag for states like West Virginia and Kentucky with big coal industries.

But would an energy state like Louisiana that’s focused on oil and natural gas production see gains from coal’s loss?

“That’s true,” conceded Don Briggs, president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association.

But Briggs quickly added several “buts” for opposing the proposed EPA rules. “He (Obama) is targeting the coal industry, but where does that stop?” Briggs said.

This is just the first step of the president’s new climate action plan, and Briggs said Louisiana’s oil and gas industries could suffer.

Briggs also noted that Louisiana does have some coal industry and that the state has several plants that rely on coal-powered energy generation.

That argument also is why most of the Louisiana congressional delegation criticized the Obama administration on Friday.

“EPA completely ignores other nations’ missteps, and the severe negative impacts from trying to address carbon emissions,” argued Sen. David Vitter, R-La.

“Their actions have resulted in economic uncertainty, job loss, and increased electricity prices, yet the agency continues to barrel on — full speed ahead.”

Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, called the EPA rules job killers that will increase energy process.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., even got in the mix, arguing that the EPA is calling for “overzealous regulations” that hurt the nation’s energy independence.

Richmond files youth jail bill

Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, filed legislation this past week designed to curb youth incarceration rates stemming from misbehavior in schools.

The Student Disciplinary Fairness Act establishes a new Justice Department office to monitor the potential over-reliance of schools on use law enforcement to address misbehavior in the classroom.

The legislation also changes current laws to ensure that applicants for Community Oriented Policing Services Grants take the necessary steps to adapt their juvenile justice systems if there are issues regarding not ensuring “probable cause” before having students arrested for school misbehavior.

“There are jurisdictions and schools all across the country that actually criminalize minor behavioral infractions,” Richmond said in the announcement.

“It is absolutely troubling to learn that violating a school’s dress code or talking back to a teacher are included among the instances that have resulted in a student being arrested.”

Dyslexia Awareness Seminar

Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, is hosting a “Dyslexia Awareness Seminar” on Wednesday at the Southern University Agricultural Center.

The event is scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to noon at Southern’s A.O. Williams Hall.

Cassidy, who co-chairs the House Dyslexia Caucus, has dealt with the condition as a parent. He will address the challenges of dyslexia and how to help those with the condition.

Other speakers will address related topics, including why it’s important to know about dyslexia and how to read with the condition. HBO’s documentary “The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia” also will be screened.

Vitter seeks more NRC checks

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., filed legislation last week that is intended to create more checks and balances within the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The proposed NRC Reorganization Act disperses power from the NRC chairman to all five commissioners. The bill states that NRC members will have equal access to all information within the agency, as well as the power to fill vacancies, according to Vitter.

The NRC is made up of five appointed commissioners who are responsible for the policy formulation, rulemaking, and orders and adjudications regarding all national nuclear energy issues.

“The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has a supremely important role within our government, and it cannot effectively operate without common sense legislation supporting it,” Vitter said. “We want to support the function of the commission, but put some simple checks and balances in place. Our bill will allow the commission to run itself efficiently, and to preempt abuse of power.”

Vitter is the ranking Republican member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

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