Officials disappointed, shocked by Shell announcement
When Shell announced in late September it had selected a site near Sorrento in Ascension Parish for a potential gas-to-liquids (GTL) facility that could produce upwards of 140,000 barrels of liquid fuels per day, the energy giant made it clear a final decision on the $12.5 billion project would not be made until 2015. Still, today's announcement that the deal is off comes as a blow to state and regional officials. “Shell's abrupt decision to cancel its North American GTL project just 10 weeks after concluding a multi-year site-selection process is obviously very disappointing news,” says LED Secretary Stephen Moret in a written statement. Ascension Parish officials, whose area stood to gain millions of dollars worth of road and infrastructure improvements from the deal, are particularly stunned by the announcement. “It's shocking, especially after they invested so much money and coming so soon after they announced the site selection,” says Ascension Parish Council Chairman Chris Loar. “It's a huge blow to the region.” But not everyone is surprised by the apparent about-face. Rich Sapienza, an expert in GTL technology with the Lafayette R&D firm Enersciences, told Business Report
in early October the deal was a longshot. “These kind of announcements happen all the time, then don't pan out,” he tells Daily Report
today. “The economics are always the issue with these kinds of plants. They have to make sure they can be profitable for 25 years or more.” In a statement released from its corporate headquarters in The Hague, Shell suggests the company decided it could be more profitable by pursuing other opportunities, and cites three reasons for its decision: the likely development cost of the project, uncertainties surrounding oil and gas prices, and “Shell's strict capital discipline.” —Stephanie Riegel Read the full story here.
Delgado to sponsor property owners who request annexation
Metro Councilman John Delgado announced in a press release this afternoon that he plans to sponsor an ordinance to annex the properties of any qualified property owner in the unincorporated area of the parish who wishes to join the City of Baton Rouge. Delgado says that the incorporation of the City of St. George will raise taxes and diminish services for residents of the area, “as has happened in Baker, Zachary and Central.” “I want to give those constituents and others in the parish a choice,” he adds. “I believe in self-determination.” The release indicated the annexation offer would apply to property “adjacent to the City of Baton Rouge.” While Councilwoman Denise Marcelle told Daily Report in October
that she thought Baton Rouge should look into annexing unincorporated areas like the region of the proposed City of St. George, Councilman Joel Boé said this afternoon that he'll have to talk to Delgado about the details of the proposed ordinance before he takes a stance. “It seems extremely cumbersome to say that anybody and everybody who wants to be annexed into the City of Baton Rouge can do so,” Boé said, adding, “But it sounds like it would be nothing that's forced on anybody; it would simply be their request.” Delgado says all petitions requesting to join the city must be submitted to him by the end of the year, after which he will place them on the agenda for the Jan. 8 council meeting. —Rachel Alexander Read the full story here.
Entrepreneur: Benny Hopson
It wasn’t exactly love at first sight when Benny Hopson and his family first entered the former Blockbuster building on Siegen Lane back in January. “It was terrible," Hopson tells Business Report
in its latest Entrepreneur feature. But along with the dilapidation and rain damaged floor, Hopson also saw in the Blockbuster location the kind of space he'd been seeking for three years in which to locate a Capital Region golf store. "It was wide open, and I could do with it what I wanted," he says. Hopson designed the 6,500-square-foot interior himself, had the plans finalized by an architect, then, permits in hand, proceeded with renovations. "We did so much of the work ourselves," he says. "I lost 10 pounds." Capital Golf opened on March 29, a full-service golf store. Read the full feature.
La. oil, gas and chemical officials dismiss emissions report
Louisiana Oil & Gas Association President Don Briggs says he's not surprised by the findings in a study released yesterday by Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Integrity Project, which says America's hydraulic fracturing boom will cause greenhouse gas emissions to increase by at least 91 million tons in the coming years—because of the approximately 95 oil, gas and chemical plants that have been approved for construction across the U.S. since the start of 2012, made possible by fracking's pipeline of cheap natural gas. “The EIP is simply a small group who is attacking fossil fuels in any way possible—all in the name of being pollution watchdogs,” Briggs says in a statement to Daily Report
. Of the 95 planned oil, gas and chemical plants included in the report, four of the 10 projected to cause the largest increases in emissions are located in Louisiana—including a pair of liquefied natural gas plants planned in Cameron and Ascension parishes. Briggs says those projects and other industrial expansions announced in the U.S. in recent years will add hundreds of thousands of jobs in the country. “Through the use of this clean natural gas, our nation is pulling out of the worst recession since the Great Depression,” Briggs says. “Over $80 billion in economic development projects have been committed to Louisiana over the next decade. We need to do everything possible to ensure that these projects come to Louisiana and stay for the long-term.” Dan Borné, president of the Louisiana Chemical Association, says he's only read excerpts from the full report, “but it's my understanding that this group has reservations about using most forms of fossil fuels.” See the EIP report. —Steve Sanoski
LSU professor pushes chemical manufacturing in Mississippi
Mississippi should seize an opportunity to compete for energy-thirsty economic development, LSU professor and economist David Dismukes suggested today at the Governor's Energy Summit. The Associated Press reports Dismukes was hired by the Mississippi Energy Institute to look at opportunities that might arise from the U.S. boom in natural gas production. At today’s summit in Jackson, Dismukes presented preliminary results from his study. He finds that Mississippi should pitch itself as a home for chemical manufacturing companies that might want to get away from areas clogged by tens of billions in construction in the refining and chemical sectors. "Energy-based industrial development, to date, has been highly concentrated in Louisiana and Texas, largely due to the ability to leverage existing (brownfield) sites and historic industrial linkages," Dismukes writes. "However, constraints are likely to arise in the future. Mississippi will have to vigorously compete for these opportunities—they will not materialize without concerted, uniform effort." That dovetails with Gov. Phil Bryant's vision for using energy as a driver for economic development, making Mississippi "your energy home." Bryant especially touts the potential for oil drilling in southwest Mississippi. Dismukes says opportunities look brightest in refining methanol and building new gas-fired power plants, and he also says exports of liquefied natural gas could be another opportunity.
Holder lauds new U.S. Attorney in New Orleans visit
Attorney General Eric Holder was in New Orleans today for the ceremonial swearing-in of the region's new top federal prosecutor, who took over an office shaken by a scandal that led to his predecessor's resignation. U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite Jr. was officially sworn in when he started the job in September, but a crowd of elected officials, judges, attorneys and young students gathered to watch him take the oath of office during an investiture ceremony at a New Orleans high school. Holder said the New Orleans native is "uniquely qualified" to lead the U.S. Attorney's office for the Eastern District of Louisiana. Growing up in city's Lower 9th Ward, Polite had a firsthand view of residents' struggles against crime, drugs and violence, Holder noted. "He came to understand the tremendous power of education and community outreach when it comes to transforming neighborhoods, improving criminal justice outcomes and even saving lives," Holder said. Polite said he plans to heed Holder's advice to get out from behind a desk as frequently as possible to "advocate for justice" in the community. And improving education must be a key component in the region's fight against crime, he said. "Our community must rally around our young people," he said. "We have to cut off the school-to-prison pipeline." Polite replaces Jim Letten, who resigned in December 2012 after two of his top deputies acknowledged posting anonymous comments about politicians, judges and cases on a newspaper's website.
Sports roundup: No charges in Jameis Winston sex assault case … Panthers coach says MNF loss showed Saints are ‘beatable’ … Rough couple of weeks for NFL officiating
Florida State quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate Jameis Winston will not be charged with sexually assaulting a woman who accused him of raping her about a year ago, a prosecutor announced today. "After reviewing all the evidence in the case, we did not feel like we could meet that burden," State Attorney Willie Meggs says, adding there was not enough evidence to win a conviction. Winston, 19, has led the Seminoles to a No. 1 ranking and a shot at a national championship if they defeat Duke on Saturday. The Associated Press has the full story.Looking ahead:
Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera took some time away from analyzing fourth-down statistics Monday night and watched his upcoming opponent, the New Orleans Saints, get whooped up on by the Seattle Seahawks. The Carolina Panthers coach told reporters on Wednesday he had one distinct takeaway. "I learned that they're beatable," NFL.com quotes Rivera as saying. "I thought Seattle played a very good game and I thought some things were off for New Orleans. But it was good to see, give you a little bit of a jump, a little bit of a head start on our next opponent." The Panthers and Saints will meet Sunday night in New Orleans with the NFC South division lead on the line. Read the full story.Zebra hunt:
It's been a rough couple of weeks for NFL officials. The coaches are angry, from Super Bowl winners Bill Belichick and Mike Shanahan to the not quite as successful Bruce Arians and Mike Munchak. Fans are upset, too, about calls they see and don't see, explanations they get but don't understand. Commentators are even wondering if the replacement officials have returned to the NFL. Flags fly and everyone wonders why. Flags don't fly and everyone wonders why—but even more loudly. The Associated Press has the full story.