Daily Report

This Morning's Headlines / Fri, April 13, 2012

Cheniere LNG export plant could get final approval next week

Cheniere Energy Inc., the natural gas importer that lost $1.2 billion in a decade, is poised to become the sole U.S. exporter of fuel from the shale bonanza that has turned the nation into the world's biggest gas producer. As Bloomberg reports, the government may decide as soon as next week on Cheniere's request to build a $10 billion plant in south Louisiana that would be the largest in the United States to liquefy gas and load it onto ocean-going tankers. Cheniere CEO Charif Souki's next step, after clearing U.S. approvals, will be to complete fundraising for the project. As the only company with a 20-year Energy Department license to export continental liquefied gas to nations without U.S. free-trade agreements, Cheniere will have a near-monopoly on selling LNG to some of the biggest gas importers—Japan and Spain, for example—which currently pay as much as nine times more for the fuel than it costs in U.S. markets. Seven rival export-license requests are on hold while the Energy Department studies the potential economic impacts of shipping abroad. "The global LNG market is tight, and spot prices are going to be quite high at least until 2018," when several new Australian LNG export projects are scheduled to ramp up, says Asish Mohanty, senior global LNG analyst at Wood Mackenzie, the Edinburgh-based energy researcher. Read the full story here. And check out another Daily Report story from earlier this week about Trunkline LNG's hopes to get a facility under construction in Lake Charles by 2014 here.

LaPolitics by Maginnis: Vitter calls out Jindal for lack of 'legacy' leadership

Sen. David Vitter criticized Gov. Bobby Jindal Thursday for not taking the lead on the high-stakes "legacy lawsuits," saying that his inaction aids landowners and trial lawyers at the expense of oil exploration. "I don't think the governor is that neutral," Vitter told LaPolitics. "If the governor wanted to get everyone together to forge a compromise, it would get done." Vitter says the lack of a legislative solution helps the landowner/lawyer side by maintaining the status quo of what he calls a "trial lawyer bonanza." The governor's press office responded with a statement: "David Vitter is misinformed. Governor Jindal tasked Secretary (Scott) Angelle with negotiating an agreement between all the different stakeholders several months ago. They have been working diligently and are close to an agreement." The legacy lawsuit issue will get a public airing in two legislative committees next week. In House Civil Law on Tuesday, the oil industry is supporting House Bill 460 by Chairman Neil Abramson, D-New Orleans, which would establish a procedure for the state to submit a cleanup plan for remediation in court. Up to 10 other bills, approaching the issue from different sides, also will be up for consideration. Before then, the Joint Natural Resources Committee will hold an informational hearing on Monday, during which the landowners' plan will be presented by Jimmy Faircloth, attorney for major landowner Roy Martin III. He has drafted Senate Bill 528, which has been filed by Sen. Gerald Long, R-Natchitoches, who chairs the Natural Resources Committee.

They said it: "I have no problem being mistaken for anyone else. I'm the only one in captivity." —Sen. Robert Kostelka, R-West Monroe

(John Maginnis publishes LaPolitics Weekly, a newsletter on Louisiana politics, at LaPolitics.com.)

'225 Dine': Greystone chef gets the Masters nod

Chef Christian Morgan of the Greystone Golf & Country Club of Denham Springs got a unique chance to show his culinary skills at the 2012 Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, Ga. Morgan was invited to cook for tournament participants—including golfers such as Tiger Woods and, of course, 2012 champion Bubba Watson, as well as production staff, members of the press and other important guests. Though he was one of many chefs at the event, contending with a grueling schedule of 12 days—working nearly 18 hours a day—Morgan managed to put his personal stamp on meals by giving the players a taste of Creole flair. He served up dishes like shrimp and grits, crab cakes with remoulade sauce, and eggplant Napoleon. He even cooked one of his Greystone specialties, roasted chicken with pan gravy. "It went over really well," he says. "I'd call it a huge hit." One of the most exciting events he was involved in, he says, was the annual Champion Dinner, wherein the previous year's Masters Champion—in this case, Charl Schwartzel—got to select the menu for the event. Johannesburg native Schwartzel picked a "South African barbecue" theme, and Morgan and his fellow chefs prepared filet mignon, rack of lamb, chicken breasts, and South African link sausages over an open pit, marinated in "monkey gland sauce," a piquant blend of fruit and spices that's a common condiment in South Africa. "I'm definitely planning to bring in some of the things I saw there and implement things I learned," says Morgan, who has already been invited to return to the Masters next year. Check out this week's entire 225 Dine e-newsletter here. —Rachael Upton

Tech president: LSUS merger would take 3-5 years

Participants at a town hall meeting Thursday in Shreveport estimated a proposed merger of LSU-Shreveport and Louisiana Tech in Ruston would involve a transition period of three to five years. Tech President Dan Reneau says that during such a transition, faculty at the two north Louisiana campuses would establish working relationships. Thursday's meeting included Reneau and University of Louisiana president Randy Moffett. The state's Board of Regents has recommended that the campuses merge, and merger bills are pending at the Legislature. The merger would involve moving LSUS from the LSU System into the UL System, which runs Tech and other universities around the state. Moffett's presentation included a look at how the University of New Orleans recently switched from the LSU System into the UL System. "The transition happened very smoothly," he says. "We challenge the campuses to be better. We don't micromanage and encourage faculty sharing. This is not a territorial issue. It's what's best for Louisiana." The transition cost about $300,000. Thursday's speakers laid out a vision for campuses with two provosts, one in Shreveport and one in Ruston. LSUS Foundation funds would not be diverted, they say. And each department would have one head, regardless of where it is located. There would be recruiting offices on both campuses, under the ideas outlined at the town hall.

Level Construction buys 37 lots in Zachary

With plans to take its first swing at building golf course homes, Baton Rouge-based Level Construction has purchased 37 lots in Zachary's Copper Mill subdivision for $39,000 each—or about $1.44 million total—says partner Todd Waguespack. "It's a higher-end product with a lot more amenities and customization, which we're really excited about taking on," Waguespack says. Twenty-four of the lots are located in The Cove subdivision within Copper Mill, while the others are in Club View Estates. George W. Robinson Jr. was the seller. Waguespack says homes are already under construction on two of the sites, and he estimates all 37 homes could be completed within two years. The homes will range from 2,400 to 3,100 square feet, and will be priced between $120 and $130 per square foot. —Steve Sanoski

Idea for Louisiana school building authority flops once more

The fourth time was not the charm for Sen. Karen Carter Peterson's effort to establish a statewide school construction authority that would set priorities across a Louisiana public school system riddled with dilapidated structures, The Times-Picayune reports. The Senate Education Committee spiked the idea Thursday without a single supporting vote. Peterson was able to pass some form of a bill in 2008 and 2010 to create a Louisiana Statewide Education Facilities Authority, which would involve the state in school construction projects that now are exclusively a local responsibility. Both times, Gov. Bobby Jindal vetoed it, arguing that such a measure could lead to local school construction crowding out other projects from the state's limited capital outlay budget and other revenue sources. Peterson says it should be a state responsibility to ensure all public school students can learn in acceptable facilities, and notes 41 states and Washington, D.C., contribute to the construction of local school facilities. According to the Cowen Institute at Tulane University, almost 90% of Louisiana schools report a need to repair or replace all or part of their physical plant. Check out the full story here.

News roundup: Sheen in Gulf smaller; source still a mystery … DeSoto schools drop costly CNG buses idea … Turner painting at Live after Five to benefit CATS

On the surface: The Coast Guard says an oil sheen off Louisiana's coast is breaking up and is much smaller than when it was first spotted on Wednesday, about 130 miles southeast of New Orleans. The sheen initially was reported to be about 10 miles long and a mile wide. No source has been determined for the oil. A Coast Guard spokesman today says the sheen is dissipating and at last report was about five miles long and about 100 yards wide. The sheen was in the area of two Shell production platforms, but Royal Dutch Shell says it is confident its operations were not the source. The Coast Guard says it will have a pollution investigator aboard a Shell flight over the site today.

In the tank: The DeSoto Parish School Board has backed away from plans to add three compressed natural gas buses to its fleet after finding out the purchase price. The Shreveport Times reports school system officials wanted to use the buses in the Mansfield area after a CNG station opened there this year. Schools Superintendent Walter Lee said it made sense to take advantage of the locally produced resource. But when bids were opened, the lowest price—from Ross Bus & Equipment Sales in Alexandria—was $147,395 each. The same company bid $83,069 on a 72-passenger diesel engine bus. The board will purchase 10 of those instead. Lee says the system may try in another year to get a better price on CNG buses.

Getting on board: To help kick off the new season of the Live after Five downtown concert series today—and provide a little support for the struggling Capital Area Transit System—Baton Rouge artist Christopher Turner will create a CATS-inspired painting to be auctioned off. Along with auctioning off the painting created today, Turner say he's also considering a limited edition signed lithograph, with proceeds also to benefit CATS. Live after Five takes place from 5 to 8 p.m. For complete details, click here.

Today's poll question: Which of these live music events are you planning to attend this weekend?

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