Gas at Jeffeson Island, bench bumps and more
MORE GAS AT JEFFERSON ISLAND

The state Department of Natural Resources has issued the first three mining permits required for two new natural gas storage caverns beneath Lake Peigneur at Jefferson Island. The project has faced widespread opposition in light of water quality concerns raised for both the lake and the underlying Chicot Aquifer ("Under Pressure," April 12). The state Legislature, the Iberia Parish Council and the Lafayette City-Parish Council all passed resolutions requesting DNR deny the permits.

"I think it's a done deal," says Michael Richard, owner of Jefferson Island's famed Rip Van Winkle Gardens, who helped organize a citizen's group opposing the project. "The bureaucrats are just going through the motions. They're very polite and very helpful to us when we go to talk to them. But, that's it, you're just getting lip service."

The permits were issued to Jefferson Island Storage and Hub LLC, which already operates two natural gas storage caverns in the salt dome beneath Lake Peigneur. General Manager Jim Pitts has said the company hopes to begin work on the project this summer and will abide by all state and federal safety regulations. The $100 million expansion will allow the company to double its current gas storage capacity at Jefferson Island, to about 24 billion cubic feet of gas. Jefferson Island Storage and Hub is still awaiting approval of two other well permits from DNR and a dredging permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the project. ' Nathan Stubbs

BENCH BUMPS

The state's $21.7 billion budget is voluminous, to say the least. But hundreds of pages filled with millions of numbers still can't obscure some eyebrow-raising items. There's a $15,000 line item to relocate an "oil monument" from the Shreveport Fairgrounds to the Louisiana State Oil and Gas Museum. Then there's another $250,000 for the Capitol High School Alumni Association for renovations and repairs to a community center. But Louisiana judges are among the biggest winners in the budget.

Next year, district court judges will receive a $10,600 salary bump, bringing them to $116,400 annually; appellate judge salaries increase to approximately $122,500, and Supreme Court justices will earn more than $129,000. House Bill 1, which carries the state's spending plan, was approved by the House last week and is now undergoing debate in the Senate. ' Jeremy Alford

INDUSTRIAL JOBS PLUMMET

The most recent Louisiana Manufacturers Register, an annual industrial guide, doesn't bode well for the post-Katrina marketplace: The state lost 11,632 industrial jobs over the past 12 months. About 25 new manufacturers were added to the rolls during the same period, but that good news was greatly overshadowed by the 411 companies that went out of business.

"The state lost about 7 percent of its manufacturing jobs in the immediate aftermath of Katrina," says Tom Dubin, president of the group that publishes the findings. "Since then, however, we find that industrial employment has remained fairly steady as businesses seek raw materials, machinery and supplies for the rebuilding effort." The publication shows that Louisiana ranks third in the southwest states for number of manufacturers; the top industrial cities remain Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Shreveport, which account for 20 percent of Louisiana's manufacturers. ' JA

CORRECTION

In last week's story regarding eBay's lobbying efforts in the state Legislature ("Doing Their Bidding," May 31), we incorrectly reported that eBay opposes proposed legislation that would require certain eBay sellers to be licensed by the Louisiana Auctioneers Licensing Board. The LALB has that authority under current law, and eBay supports newly proposed Senate Bill 642, which would exclude eBay sellers from state licensing requirements. The Independent Weekly regrets the error. ' Scott Jordan

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