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More on the Pelican Commission, pork, and lobbyists

The LAT article "Lobbyists Shape Gulf Coast Rebuilding" has more on just how much say corporations got in Louisiana's rebuilding plan. Bear in mind, that article is about the state's plan, the one they want $250 billion for. See "Louisiana wants $40 billion; stuffed with pork" for previous coverage.
From the LAT:

..."I was basically shocked," said Ivor van Heerden, director of a hurricane public health research center at Louisiana State University. "What do lobbyists know about a plan for the reconstruction and restoration of Louisiana?"
Van Heerden is the first participant in any of the senators' working groups to provide such a detailed and scathing account of the process. He said he was shut out after he voiced his concerns.
The result, he said, was a lost opportunity "to come up with something innovative, something the people of Louisiana and the nation could really endorse."
Among the lobby-supported interests with a stake in the relief and recovery bill:
Energy utilities: Entergy Corp. and Cleco Corp...
...Supporters of a controversial industrial canal project for New Orleans: Among those on advisory panels were two officials of Jones Walker, a New Orleans-based firm that lobbies in Washington for the canal project...
...Highway advocates Among those on a transportation working group were lobbyists for highway projects seeking funds, including one from a firm headed by former Sen. J. Bennett Johnston (D-La.)...

GAS Act of 2005: a post-Katrina sop to oil companies?

The House recently passed the GAS Act of 2005, which, cutely enough, stands for the "Gasoline for America's Security Act".
According to Congressman Patrick McHenry (R-NC-10), "the GAS Act of 2005 will cut red tape that prevents more refineries from being built. It would also improve infrastructure within the United States so that gas and diesel can get from the refinery to the customer quicker."
According to Kevin S. Curtis, senior vice president, National Environmental Trust, "The Gasoline for America's Security Act will do nothing to help consumers at the pump, increase our security or promote new energy technologies. This bill is nothing more than a shameless attempt to use Katrina and record high gas prices to push through legislation that was yanked out of the last energy bill."
See also "Speaker Hastert Weighs in on the Recently Passed Gasoline for America's Security Act", "Local Land Use Goes Out the Window in Proposed Oil Industry Bail Out, According to Officials from National League of Cities", and the background info here and here.
All of those sources suffer from various credibility problems, so hopefully more trustworthy sources can weigh in.

Oil, gas pipeline damage worse than first thought

Two weeks ago, the head of the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service, Johnnie Burton, said that there had been minimal damage to underwater oil and gas pipelines. Now, her office has changed that estimate of the damage:

"It appears that way," said MMS spokesman Gary Strasburg, who pointed out that Burton's comments were based on initial data available at the time.
"I think in her remarks she said that it was preliminary information," he said.
Strasburg could not elaborate on how much worse the damage is from Katrina, saying the agency is still trying to figure out the impact of Hurricane Rita.
Burton was out of the country and unavailable for comment...

See also "Odd: Hurricane Rita caused massive oil rig damage"

House GOP Uses Storms to Ease Energy Laws

From this:

Legislation that would end the longtime ban on energy development along most of the country's coasts and open an Alaskan wildlife refuge to oil drilling advanced Wednesday in the House.
Opponents said Republican leaders were exploiting the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita to pass pro-industry measures that they failed to get included in an energy bill signed into law only two months ago.
It is a "leave no oil company behind" wish list that will damage the environment and do nothing to ease high gasoline or winter heating costs, said Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass.
Attempts by Markey to strip the offshore development and drilling provisions failed, both by a 28-14 vote, in the House Resources Committee. The committee then approved the energy legislation 27-16...

Odd: Hurricane Rita caused massive oil rig damage

FT reports in "Rita causes record damage to oil rigs" that:

Hurricane Rita has caused more damage to oil rigs than any other storm in history and will force companies to delay drilling for oil in the US and as far away as the Middle East, initial damage assessments show...
Ken Sill of Credit Suisse First Boston said: "Early reports indicate numerous rigs are missing, destroyed or have suffered serious damage and several companies have yet to report. Rita may set an all-time record."
The US Coast Guard said nine semisubmersible rigs had broken free from their moorings and were adrift...
Initial reports from companies are ominous. Global Santa Fe reported it could not find two of its rigs. Rowan Companies reported four rigs damaged, with two having moved, one losing its "legs" and the fourth presumed sunk. Noble has four rigs adrift, with two run aground one into a ChevronTexaco platform.

But, just yesterday came this NYT report:

there was little sign of damage to the offshore infrastructure, according to the United States Coast Guard, whose initial survey found only two damaged drilling platforms and no traces of oil spills.

Gosh, that's odd.

Gulf Coast energy production to restart

From "Storms Cast Spotlight on Energy's New Reality":

...Still, on the Texas coast, the focus through the weekend was on how long it would take to restart the 16 refineries that were shut down by the storm.
Those refineries can process 4 million barrels of oil a day, or 23 percent of the country's total capacity, according to the Energy Department. Another four refineries, accounting for 5 percent of capacity, are undergoing repair after the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina.
Also, there was little sign of damage to the offshore infrastructure, according to the United States Coast Guard, whose initial survey found only two damaged drilling platforms and no traces of oil spills. By contrast, Hurricane Katrina destroyed about 50 small facilities and damaged a handful of major platforms.
Even if the damage from the latest storm proves to be light, oil production from the Gulf of Mexico is likely to be months away from returning to its normal level. Oil companies evacuated 80 percent of all the manned platforms operating in the gulf in anticipation of Hurricane Rita and shut down the region's oil production, about 1.5 million barrels a day...

Louisiana wants $40 billion; stuffed with pork

That alone should raise suspicions, but, as previously reported that's only part of what they want: Landrieu, Vitter want $250 billion.
WaPo offers "Louisiana Goes After Federal Billions":

Louisiana's congressional delegation has requested $40 billion for Army Corps of Engineers projects in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, about 10 times the annual Corps budget for the entire nation, or 16 times the amount the Corps has said it would need to protect New Orleans from a Category 5 hurricane...
...The bill, unveiled last week, would create a powerful "Pelican Commission" controlled by Louisiana residents that would decide which Corps projects to fund, and ordered the commission to consider several controversial navigation projects that have nothing to do with flood protection. The Corps section of the Louisiana bill, which was supported by the entire state delegation, was based on recommendations from a "working group" dominated by lobbyists for ports, shipping firms, energy companies and other corporate interests...

I don't think they learned this from Bush, I'm sure it's more innate than that.

"This bill boggles the mind," said Steve Ellis, a water resources expert at Taxpayers for Common Sense. "Brazen doesn't begin to describe it. The Louisiana delegation is using Katrina as an excuse to resurrect a laundry list of pork projects."
Aides to Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D) helped shape the bill. The governor yesterday asked for $31.7 billion in federal funds for her state's infrastructure, including $20 billion for hurricane protections -- which aides described as a down payment on the larger sum.

BTW, "Pelican" stands for "Protecting Essential Louisiana Infrastructure, Citizens and Nature". I wonder how much they paid to come up with that.

...The 440-page bill also includes $50 billion in open-ended grants for storm-ravaged communities and $13 billion for the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, along with mortgage assistance, health care, substance abuse treatment and other services for hurricane victims. It also includes hefty payments to hospitals, ports, banks, shipbuilders, fishermen and schools, as well as $8 million for alligator farms, $35 million for seafood industry marketing, and $25 million for a sugar-cane research laboratory that had not been completed before Katrina...
...The coastal protection section may be the most contentious part of the bill, overturning a slew of Corps precedents, but Louisiana officials say that past practice has failed to protect their state. They say their communities do not have the money to pay the standard 30 percent local share for Corps hurricane protection, or the time to wait several years for standard Corps studies...
...Vitter and Landrieu tapped John M. Barry -- author of "Rising Tide," the definitive history of the 1927 flood -- to lead the working group on the Corps response to Katrina. Almost all the other members of the group were lobbyists from firms such as Patton Boggs, Adams & Reese, the Alpine Group, Dutko Worldwide, Van Scoyoc Associates, and a firm owned by former senator J. Bennett Johnston (D-La.). There was a lobbyist for the Port of New Orleans, a lobbyist for Verizon, and three lobbyists who were former aides to House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska).
Internal notes from the working group obtained by The Washington Post suggest that hurricane protection was by no means its sole preoccupation. A list of "outstanding issues" from a Sept. 15 conference call mentioned the possibility of authorizing at least six unrelated navigation projects, and included questions such as "Are there other things we can do to boost our ports?" and -- perhaps a joke -- "How much can I bill my client?"
"My concern was that the focus was not on protecting Louisiana," said Ivor van Heerden, the deputy director of Louisiana State University's Hurricane Center and one of the few non-lobbyists on the working group...

Landrieu, Vitter want $250 billion

Maybe the $50 billion amount that their proposal exceeds the already phantasmagoric figure proposed by Bush is intended to be bargained down. Let's split the difference, eh?

Louisiana's Senators, Mary Landrieu (D) and David Vitter (R), have proposed legislation to provide about $250 billion in federal aid to help their state rebuild from Hurricane Katrina. The massive, 10-year plan, contained in a bill introduced on Sept. 22, includes about $180 billion in direct federal spending, Vitter said. The rest would represent the cost of various tax breaks.
But Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and several other GOP colleagues want at least some of the federal hurricane relief spending to be offset with spending cuts. Among their suggestions: a 5% across-the-board cut in discretionary spending other than defense and homeland security; and rescinding $24 billion in earmarked highway projects in the recently enacted highway and transit authorization bill...
...The Landrieu-Vitter package would draw most of its funds from federal appropriations, but they also are seeking 50% of the revenue from oil and gas leases off their state's coast. Vitter says that 50% share of lease payments recently has ranged between $3 billion and $4 billion annually. Those revenues would go for restoration of coastal wetlands and barrier islands as well as infrastructure.
The energy bill signed into law in August provides Louisiana with $135 million in oil and gas lease revenue annually for four years to be used for coastal restoration work...

Hugo Chavez (D-Venezuela) ships one million bbls oil to U.S.

A glorious day for Americans, as CITGO - a wholly-owned subsidiary of Petroleos de Venezuela - will soon be pumping oil specially sent to the U.S. by far-left favorite Hugo Chavez. Venezuela's Ambassador to the United States, Bernardo Alvarez Herrera, says:

"As a Hemispheric neighbor and business partner, we are pleased that we are able to provide immediate relief by increasing gasoline supplies available in the United States in the aftermath of this devastating natural disaster... We're sending additional barrels of gasoline that otherwise would have gone elsewhere, and we will continue to do whatever we can to help alleviate energy shortages and the dislocations faced by the people of the United States as a result of Hurricane Katrina."

One-quarter of the amount will be coming on Sep 25, with the rest to follow no later than Halloween.

Largest U.S. refinery shuttered

In preparation for Hurricane Rita, Exxon Mobil has shut its Baytown TX refinery. That produces 557,000 bbls of oil products per day and is the largest in the U.S.


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