State Legislative Update May 1, 2016 and Action Alert

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May 1, 2016

It was an eventful week for the Green legislative agenda at the Louisiana legislature this past week. Amazingly we passed two of our three GreenArmy bills out of the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee (HNR&E).

HB 11 is Gene Reynolds bill to ban the open burning of munitions and waste explosives in Louisiana. The bill was amended to allow the military or state police to open burn waste explosives, effectively prohibiting only private companies or individuals. The bill passed out of the committee on a close vote of 9/8.

HB 469 by Paul Connick requiring fenceline air monitoring for industries located next to residential neighborhoods was amended to only cover those industries which have had three air permit violations in a 24 month period, the so called “bad actors.” Rep Connick did a great job of working the bill and it passed out of HNR&E on a vote of 17/1. Both HB 11 and HB 469 now head to the House for a floor vote.

The one of our bills that did not make it was HB 553 by Denise Marcelle to limit industrial pumping from the Southern Hills aquifer under Baton Rouge and to change the makeup of the management board to limit industry influence. The limitation of industry representation seemed to be what rankled the committee and it was stopped by a negative vote of the committee. So this bill will not proceed in this legislative session but we will bring it back next year in some form that may be more agreeable to the committee.

Action this coming week

Our two bills that passed HNR&E Committee this past week will be up for floor vote on Wed, May 4. We think there will be moves by industry against both bills in the House and we are asking for you to make calls to the people who represent you in the Louisiana House of Representatives. You can find contact info for your state representatives by going to this link and selecting your Parish: http://house.louisiana.gov/H_Reps/H_Reps_ByParish.aspx

When you call, just identify yourself, where you live and tell the staff person that you want the Representative to vote for HB 11 by Gene Reynolds to prohibit open burning of waste explosives in Louisiana. And tell the staff person that you want the Representative to vote for HB 469 by Paul Connick to require fenceline air monitoring for industrial “bad actors.”

The following points of information can be used if needed to strengthen your position:

GreenARMY Legislative Lobby Days, April 20 and May 24, 2016 - Updated

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GreenARMY
STATE LEGISLATIVE LOBBY DAYS
Wednesdays, April 20 and May 24, 2016

The Green Army is a coalition of Environmental and Community Groups in Louisiana fighting for Clean Air and Water. We are holding Citizens Lobby days at the State Capitol in Baton Rouge on April 20 and May 24, 2016. Citizen lobbyists will have the opportunity to meet with legislators to discuss their concerns and legislation.

Wednesday, April 20 we will meet at the capitol starting at 9:00 am. You can find us at one of the tables in the downstairs cafeteria. We will have information about legislation we are supporting. We will go to the House Natural Resources Committee hearing in Committee room 4 for the hearing which will start at 9:30 am. On May 24 we will look in on house and senate floor votes and visit with legislators. To sign up for a meeting with your legislator or for further information you can contact: Margie Vicknair-Pray, Margie.vicknair-pray@sierraclub.org

No New Leasing in the Gulf of Mexico

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The oil and gas industry is a major driver of climate change that now threatens not only our coast, but our way of life. Last December in Paris, world leaders agreed that reining in the use of fossil fuels — including oil and gas — was the only way to save the planet from the most catastrophic effects of climate change.

Yet, in many ways, we in the United States and Louisiana continue with business as usual. A prime example is the proposed lease sale on 45 million acres of mineral rights in the Gulf of Mexico scheduled to take place on March 23 in New Orleans.

Our friends at the Louisiana Bucket Brigade and others are organizing a symbolic protest against this lease, saying that this huge lease flies in the face of the Paris Climate Change agreement that the United States signed in December. We need to keep fossil fuels in the ground where they belong and we need to start doing that now. Come and help us make that statement on March 23. The event description is at: http://www.nonewleases.org/

We have buses that will be leaving from Lafayette on the morning of March the 23rd to bring those who want to join in this action. If you would like to sign up for a bus ride go to this link: https://www.universe.com/events/lafayette-bus-to-new-lease-on-life-ticke... OR send an email to Woody Martin at hrmartin2sc@gmail.com with "Bus Ride" in the subject line and let us know where you live.

Takeover of Cleco Power is a BAD DEAL for Louisiana - Update

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Update- On Feb 24, 2016 after six hours of debate the LPSC voted on a motion to Not Approve the sale of CLECO to MACQUARIE on the grounds that the sale would not be in the best interest of Louisiana rate payers. Then at the March 16 meeting, LPSC reconsidered and voted to approve the sale.

Text of our original posting:
CLECO Power, the oldest of Louisiana’s major electric utility companies, is the target of a private equity takeover by foreign-owned investment groups who are buying up utility companies around the country. The takeover is being led by Australian based MACQUARIE Group Limited along with nearly two dozen other foreign investment groups and lenders. MACQUARIE and their partners want to buy all of CLECO’s stock using a Leveraged Buyout, where a substantial amount of new debt is taken on for the buyout, to be repaid by the company being acquired. When added to CLECO’s existing debt, customers would be on the hook for $2.8 billion of loan repayment, equal to nearly 90% of the total value of all of CLECO’s power plants. The acquiring company profits hugely from the acquisition and CLECO customers repay the debt. This is not a good deal for Louisiana ratepayers. This issue will be considered by the Louisiana Public Service Commission at a meeting in the next few months. We may need your help to contact the commissioners.

Dan Collins: Whistleblowing the La. DNR on Bayou Postillion

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Baton Rouge Group of the Sierra Club will host Environmental Whistleblower Dan Collins to share his story about the dredging and canalization of Bayou Postillion in the Atchafalya Basin region.

During the course of his work as a contract employee, Collins, a Landman doing research on a public works project for the Louisiana Dept. of Natural Resources, felt compelled to file a "whistleblower" suit against that agency. The case was heard by the State District Court in East Baton Rouge Parish last December and a significant ruling was issued in favor of Collins.

Hiking in Kisatchie Hills Wilderness Area - Feb. 27, 2016

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Join the Baton Rouge Group of the Sierra Club on February 27, 2016. Members and non-members alike are welcome to tag along for a hike on the Backbone Trail in Kisatchie National Forest's Kisatchie Hills Wilderness Area, one of only three such wilderness areas in Louisiana. The region is home to rugged hills and a large swatch of longleaf pine, a species of tree that once spanned millions of acres of the Southeast before they were destroyed by logging.

The Backbone Trail is 7.6 miles and runs through the heart of the wilderness area, offering a secluded view of the longleaf pine forest and various sandstone outcroppings.

Louisiana Legislature Early Update, Feb 9 2016, Sign up for Legislative Action List

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Friends of the environment and public health in Louisiana are looking forward to another eventful year in the Louisiana legislature. The election of John Bel Edwards as governor was a very hopeful sign but his loss of the speakership of the house means potentially hostile chairs and members in many legislative committees that are important to our progress. So we will have to work for good bills and work against some bad bills that we expect to see. The regular session of the 2016 legislature is where we will see bills of concern to us. That session starts Monday, March 14.

Sierra Club Delta Chapter will be working with the Green Army to push bills to protect clean air, clean water and public health, especially from industrial facilities located near Louisiana communities. And we will support good bills like the one already introduced by Rep Gene Reynolds that prohibits the open burning of munitions and waste explosives.

At the same time we will have to play defense against bills generated by lobbyists for big industry and by out of state groups such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) which are aggressive and industry friendly. They seek to remove our protections for clean air, clean water and public health. Examples of such bills pushed in other states that we will have to watch for are 1) bills hostile to limiting carbon emissions from industries and electric generation facilities, 2) state level prohibitions on the freedom of local communities to ban fracking, 3) further cutbacks in tax rebates for clean energy and residential solar installations, and 4) bills that limit our ability to challenge pollutant discharge permits issued by state agencies.

Delta Chapter Retreat - March 18-20, 2016 at Chicot State Park - Update

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All are welcome to attend the Sierra Club Delta Chapter Spring Retreat March 18-20, 2016 at Chicot State Park. Activities will include trail walking, canoeing, boating, and informative presentations. We can also visit the nearby Chicot State Arboretum.

We will have two group shelters with space for 14 persons each. To reserve a space in the group shelter for one or two nights or to let us know you are coming for Saturday only you can contact Diana Morgan at sierra.honeyisland@gmail.com 985-640-5130. The deadline for reservation of space in a group shelter is March 11 but earlier is better. RV and tent camping are also available. For RV and tent camping you can call the Park at (337) 363-2403 to make reservations.

Friday night we will have a main dish and no obligation potluck, We serve Sat breakfast, lunch is cold cuts, Saturday dinner is a catfish fry. Feel free to bring snacks and food items to contribute to the group.

Detailed info about Chicot State Park with map link is at:
http://www.crt.state.la.us/louisiana-state-parks/parks/chicot-state-park/
We will be in Lodges #1 and #3 towards the north end of the lake.

For updates on this event you can check the Delta Chapter web site at www.lasierraclub.org

Tentative schedule of activities:

Sierra Club Delta Chapter Hires Conservation Program Coordinator

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Delta Chapter is pleased to announce that we have hired Margie Vicknair-Pray to be Conservation Program Coordinator on a part time basis. Margie comes to us with a wealth of experience in environmental issues activism. She has also been a Sierra Club member and activist so she knows the Club and will be able to step right in to help Delta Chapter to conduct conservation related events and campaigns. Margie has a lengthy resume including technical writing and project development. She was the founding director of the Louisiana Coastal Cleanup program which was eventually adopted by the Louisiana Tourism Commission as a state program. She has worked in the O&G industry doing contract management and safety training. She was the Recycling manager for the City of New Orleans and she developed the Keep Mandeville Beautiful office for the City of Mandeville and worked as an independent consultant on development of recycling programs. She has recently been involved in the fight over fracking in St. Tammany Parish. Margie comes to us with many honors and awards marking her success in civic engagement. Margie is a native New Orleanian who grew up in St Tammany Parish.

We are very happy to have Margie Vicknair-Pray on the Sierra Club team in Louisiana and we look forward to new initiatives from Delta Chapter under her leadership.

Haywood “Woody” Martin, Chair
Sierra Club Delta Chapter

Common Sense Solutions to Waste, Litter and Pollution at the City Level

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The New Orleans Group of the Sierra Club welcomes Max Ciolino from No Waste NOLA for their February 21, 2015 meeting. Max will speak about waste reduction initiatives that would provide needed sustainability improvements for New Orleans. http://www.nowastenola.org/

No Waste NOLA describes their work, saying that "Starting off 2016, we are really excited about everything this year will bring. No Waste NOLA is not just a small collection of advocates, but a community of New Orleanians that are eager to see common-sense waste reduction programs implemented in this city. We hope you will work with us in the fight for a sustainable New Orleans!"

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