Daily Report

This Afternoon's Headlines / Fri, August 22, 2014

Federal lawsuit filed against new La. abortion law

An abortion rights organization has filed the first court challenge to a Louisiana law that would require doctors who perform abortions to be able to admit patients to a nearby hospital. The Associated Press reports The Center for Reproductive Rights filed its lawsuit today in U.S. District Court in Baton Rouge on behalf of abortion clinics in Shreveport, Bossier City and Metairie and two doctors. It seeks an immediate injunction against the law, which takes effect Sept. 1. Under the law, abortion doctors must be able to admit patients to a hospital within 30 miles of where the procedure is performed. The hospital must provide obstetrical or gynecological services. The lawsuit says doctors haven't had enough time to obtain the privileges and the law likely would force Louisiana's five abortion clinics to close.

La. shrimp catch down 22% in first six months of 2014

Weather-related fishing delays in the Gulf of Mexico's shrimp season this summer appear to have scrambled normal landing patterns. While the catch out of Louisiana in July was a bit higher compared to the month's typical average, Seafood.com reports landings out of Texas are trending well below their historical range, and the total catch is down from last year. In July the total shrimp harvest out of the Gulf was down 17% compared to 2013 at 9.3 million pounds. For the year the catch is down 22% from last year, short by over 11 million pounds from 2013 and the five-year average. Louisiana's shrimp catch in July was well above its five-year average for the month trending 44% higher this year at 4.9 million pounds. It appears a number of weather-related fishing delays to the state's catch have pushed Louisiana landings back a bit this season. Colder-than-normal weather pushed the start to some Louisiana openings in May and July to allow shrimp to grow to harvestable sizes. Still, for the year, Louisiana's total shrimp catch through July is down 22% from last year and down about 14.5% from the five year average. Read the full story.

'Daily Report' Week in Review: New planning director tackling BR zoning code, survey bodes well for BRAVE and much, much more

At its regular weekly meeting, the Planning Commission gave Planning Director Frank Duke—who has been on the job since mid-June—the green light to begin rewriting several areas of the city-parish zoning code that he believes are problematic. Among them, Duke tells Daily Report he's looking at the ordinance that governs the Historic Preservation Commission. While Duke says he's a big supporter of the HPC, which was created to regulate land use in the city's two historic districts and has often found itself in the crosshairs, he believes the ordinance governing the agency is complicated and convoluted. "This ordinance requires a Certificate of Appropriateness for any change to the exterior of a structure—even if you cannot see what that change is going to do from the street," he says. "If you can't see it, it shouldn't be that big of a deal." Duke also says that as the city-parish begins looking into rewriting zoning laws, he wants to focus first on the section of the code dealing with parking requirements, which he says are outdated and discourage infill development. Also this week, the results of a new survey by the LSU Public Policy Research Lab on Baton Rougeans' feelings about the Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination (BRAVE) Project were released. Of the 58.5% of Baton Rouge residents who have heard of the crime-fighting initiative that was launched in late 2012, 79% feel as if the initiative has had a "somewhat positive" or "very positive" impact on crime reduction. —Steve Sanoski Read the complete Daily Report Week in Review.

US oil imports fall to 19-year low for the month of July

U.S. imports of crude and fuel in July dropped to the lowest level for the month in 19 years as domestic production rose, the American Petroleum Institute says. Bloomberg reports imports slid to 9.06 million barrels a day—the least for July since 1995—the industry-funded group says today in a monthly report. Domestic crude-oil production rose to the highest July level since 1986, staying above 8 million barrels a day for a sixth month. "Last month generated new records for many of the petroleum statistics we track," John Felmy, chief economist at the API in Washington, says in the report. "Imports of crude oil and refined products set multi-decade lows for the month." Total imports dropped 12% from a year earlier, the API says. Imports of crude oil decreased 7.2% from 2013 to average 7.49 million barrels a day, also the lowest July level in 19 years. Crude production jumped 14% from 2013 to 8.5 million barrels a day. Output has surged as a combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has unlocked supplies trapped in shale formations, including the Bakken in North Dakota and the Eagle Ford in Texas. Total deliveries of petroleum products, a measure of consumption, climbed 1.3% from a year earlier to 19.3 million barrels a day. It was the highest level for the month in four years. Gasoline demand increased 1% to 9.15 million.

'225': Five daytrips for Red Stickers

Research shows vacations aren't just for fun but also important for health and critical to happiness. In the latest issue of 225, contributing writer Ashley K. Berthelot lists five daytrips within driving distance of the Capital City that are perfect for those on a tight budget. One suggestion for a little R&R is a drive to Abita Springs. Once you're there, check out the UCM Museum, "which is most likely the strangest museum/tourist attraction in south Louisiana," Berthelot writes. The destination is called the state's most eccentric museum and houses more than 50,000 found and upcycled items. Also in Abita Springs is the Abita Brewery, which features tours Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at 2 p.m. and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Another quick vacation suggestion is the Mandeville Lakefront, which is home to The Lakehouse restaurant. "You'll definitely feel like you've taken a real vacation after spoiling yourself with such a decadent meal," Berthelot writes. A long-time favorite at the restaurant is the soft-shell crab Pontchartrain. Read the full feature.

Huckabee to conservatives: 'Stop the fight' over Common Core

Conservatives should "stop the fight" over Common Core and instead consider the benefits that the academic standards offer students in struggling schools, one-time presidential candidate, Fox News host and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee says. The position puts him at odds with a significant bloc of Republicans, including Gov. Bobby Jindal. Huckabee, who unsuccessfully sought the GOP presidential nomination in 2008 and is considering a 2016 run, acknowledged the standards have become politically unpopular. Tea party-styled conservatives brand the standards as big-government intrusion, while teacher unions oppose having their members graded on how well students learn the more rigorous skills. "Common Core has become toxic, I think it's radioactive. It has become an incredibly controversial topic on both the left and the right," Huckabee says. Regardless of political leanings, he says, 'We want our students to achieve to the highest level they're capable. … They can't do that if we dumb down the schools. I don't know of any conservative who wants to dumb down America's schools. I don't know of any student who would benefit." Huckabee, a former pastor, made his comments while attending a National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference in Washington. The Associated Press has Read the full story.

News roundup: BR brewery to release new seasonal next week … La. rig count up one on the week … EPA sends biofuel mandates to White House

It’s the time of the season: Tin Roof Beer will launch Turnrow next week, 225 reports. The new fall seasonal is a coriander ale that will be available on draft at select establishments and in cans at a few local grocery stores, Tin Roof co-founder William McGehee says. McGehee calls the new beer Tin Roof's "football seasonal." "In the fall here in Louisiana, it's still hot, and this beer is nice and refreshing and has a crisp taste," he says. "It's perfect for tailgating." Read the full story.

By the numbers: Oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. says the number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. fell 17 this week to 1,896. The Houston-based firm says in its weekly report that 1,564 rigs were exploring for oil and 330 for gas. Two were listed as miscellaneous. A year ago there were 1,776 active rigs. Of the major oil- and gas-producing states, Kansas gained two rigs while Arkansas, Louisiana, West Virginia and Wyoming each rose by one. Texas declined by 13 rigs, Alaska was off three, North Dakota was down two and California, Colorado, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania dropped one apiece.

It’s a long and narrow way: The White House is now reviewing the Environmental Protection Agency’s planned quotas for renewable fuels, a major milestone in the long path to setting this year’s biofuel mandates. FuelFix.com reports that for now, at least, the targets are under wraps, as the Office of Management and Budget conducts a final interagency review and gives refiners, biofuel producers and other stakeholders one last chance to weigh in on the mandates. Read the full story.
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