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Context of 'Afternoon August 28, 2005: Louisiana Senators Urge Bush to Tour Devastated Area as soon as Possible'

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In a six-page letter to the congressional conference-committee charged with combining the House (see April 21, 2005) and Senate (see June 28, 2005) versions of the 2005 Energy Policy Act (HR 6), Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman expresses the Bush administration’s strong opposition to a provision that would grant coastal oil-producing states like Louisiana a share of the royalties from offshore oil and gas operations. Historically, the royalties have been paid exclusively to the federal government. [Houma Today, 7/21/2005; Houma Today, 7/23/2005; Salon, 9/1/2005] Bodman writes in his letter that “The administration strongly opposes” the new funding. “These provisions are inconsistent with the president’s 2006 budget and would have a significant impact on the budget deficit.” [Salon, 9/1/2005] The statement also says, “The administration recognizes that coastal Louisiana is an environmental resource of national significance and has worked closely with the state of Louisiana to produce a near-term coastal wetlands restoration plan to guide how the next phase of restoration projects in Louisiana will be identified, prioritized, and sequenced.” [Houma Today, 7/21/2005] Craig Stevens, the press secretary for the Department of Energy, later explains to Salon: “We didn’t object to the idea in principle. [Rather, we objected to] part of the way it was crafted.” [Salon, 9/1/2005] Bodman also takes issue with the House’s WRDA bill (see April 13, 2005). WRDA, or the Water Resources Development Act, provides federal authorization for water resources projects. The House bill would require the federal government to pay 65 percent of the cost of the Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) restoration project, leaving the remaining 35 percent for state and local governments to pay. “The cost-share paid by the general taxpayer for the Everglades restoration effort is 50 percent, and this should likewise be the maximum federal contribution for the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway and coastal Louisiana restoration efforts.” If the Fed’s portion of the bill were 65 percent, the letter argues, it would “create expectations for future appropriations that cannot be met given competing spending priorities within the overall need for spending restraint, including deficit reduction.” Adam Sharp, spokesman for Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), notes however that the 50-50 cost-share formula for the Everglades is an exception to the Corps’ practice, not the rule. Indeed, in January (see January 2005), the Corps recommended the 65-35 cost share formula in its report on the coastal plan to Congress saying that such a split would be “consistent with existing law and Corps policy.” [Houma Today, 7/21/2005]

Entity Tags: Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Ecosystem Restoration Study, Craig Stevens, Samuel W. Bodman

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Today, Senator David Vitter (R-La) will argue before a Senate committee hearing that the federal government should bear more of the cost of a 10-year plan to stop coastal land loss. The Bush administration has argued that Louisiana should bear 50 percent of the costs, while Vitter argues that the federal government should bear 75 percent of the cost. [Associated Press, 8/29/2005]

Entity Tags: David Vitter, Bush administration (43)

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La) appears on CNN to discuss the challenges to evacuating Southeastern Louisiana. Landrieu first notes, “[W]e don’t have enough highways.… We have urged the federal government to stay focused on helping us to expand our highway infrastructure just for this purpose.… We don’t, literally, have enough highways to get people out.” Landrieu also describes the challenges to an evacuation of New Orleans: “About 30 percent of the population doesn’t have access to an automobile or owns an automobile. So they’ve got to count on extended families or friends or neighbors. The evacuation of the elderly is always a challenge of course and those that are in hospitals. The mayor is working and has been working diligently on that plan. Hopefully it will be carried out,” although, she notes, 3,000 of Louisiana’s National Guard are in Iraq and thus unable to assist in the evacuation. [CNN, 8/29/2005]

Entity Tags: Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana National Guard

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Mary Landrieu (D-La) and David Vitter (R-La) send a joint letter to President Bush. After thanking Bush for the early declaration of emergency and for his public comments urging residents to flee Hurricane Katrina, the senators urge Bush “respectfully but in the strongest possible terms to tour the devastated area as soon as practical,” to reassure the affected residents that federal agencies will help the area recover. [Times-Picayune Blog, 8/28/2005]

Entity Tags: David Vitter, Hurricane Katrina, George W. Bush, Mary L. Landrieu

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

From the Baton Rouge emergency center, Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.) issues a statement regarding Hurricane Katrina, commending local officials and Governor Blanco for their work. “Unfortunately, the reverberations of this storm will be felt not only in Louisiana but across the nation.” Blanco also reiterates her appeal for protection of Louisiana’s wetlands: “Our port system provides the nation with the transportation needs for our country’s economy while our coastline provides the energy for our homes and industries. And Louisiana’s unique wetlands provide our state with a buffer zone from natural disasters such as hurricanes. But our wetlands have been eroding. As I have said before, in order for us to protect America’s energy supply and transportation needs, the federal government must join with the people of Louisiana to preserve America’s wetlands.” [Times-Picayune Blog, 8/29/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, Mary L. Landrieu

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Senator David Vitter (R-La.) issues a statement on Hurricane Katrina: “While I am extremely grateful that the City of New Orleans didn’t take a direct hit from Hurricane Katrina, many, many families throughout southeast Louisiana have suffered major destruction. My heart and prayers go out to all of the families who have experienced catastrophic loss because of Hurricane Katrina. I would like to commend all of the local leaders who helped the people of Louisiana prepare for evacuation and who are working even now to prepare for recovery after the storm subsides. Working together, leaders at the federal, state and local levels, will help the families of Louisiana rebuild their homes and their lives.” [Times-Picayune Blog, 8/29/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina, David Vitter

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

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