Posted on August 24, 2022
Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy said Monday (Aug. 22) that the federal infrastructure law will benefit the state’s coastal communities while also helping the oil industry.
“It has money for coastal restoration, flood mitigation, things that will revitalize the energy industry,” the Republican lawmaker said during a stop in Lafourche Parish.
Not far from Highway 1, where houses sit along the bayou, Cassidy mingled with business, civic and political leaders in Thibodaux. Touting ways the $1 trillion federal infrastructure law will benefit the area was high on his agenda.
Before his speech, Cassidy told Fox 8 that the infrastructure package is benefitting smaller communities just as it is larger, more populated areas.
“One example: There is $65 billion to make sure that every parish and county, that everyone in them has access to high-speed affordable internet,” Cassidy said. “Now, when you go further south than these parishes – Lafourche and Terrebonne – you begin to lose internet. (So) that’s economic development, that’s disaster (assistance), that’s telehealth. So, this is going to filter out to smaller communities, less-populated communities, and that was part of our intent.”
Stacey Nichols, executive director of the Bayou Industrial Group, said the business organization is a non-partisan group that does not take positions on issues but invites speakers to gain information.
“In the business community, there are so many concerns. But in our area specifically, we’re always talking about coastal issues, gas production and drilling, things like that. It’s going to vary a lot based on industry,” said Nichols.
Cassidy said offshore energy production is not being ignored.
“There is going to be increased offshore production, based upon recent legislation passed by Congress,” Cassidy said. “But it won’t just be offshore oil and gas production. In the infrastructure bill, there’s also money for carbon capture utilization sequestration. We take something out of the ground, but we use the same workforce and the same technology to put stuff back under the ground. It makes our industry more competitive. It creates more American jobs.”
Lafourche Parish President Archie Chaisson said federal red tape remains an issue nearly a year since Hurricane Ida.
“It seems, in a lot of cases, that the good have to suffer for the bad, because people have misspent previous obligations,” Chaisson said. “But we’re hoping to be able to work with Sen. Cassidy and even the FEMA administrator on how these processes work and see if there’s a way to speed it up, so that we can speed up the recovery on our end.”
And with the Ida recovery not complete in Lafourche Parish, some said that adds to the angst as the hurricane season progresses.
“Look, we still have temporary roofs on a lot of our buildings,” Chaisson said. “We still have pump stations that are in imminent danger of failure. So all those things that factor into our hurricane planning, as well as the 4,000-plus people we still have in temporary shelter.”
Cassidy said more disaster funding could be made available.
“There’s something called a disaster supplemental,” he said. “We take all the disasters in the nation, in which there needs to be a little bit of extra dollars or a lot of extra dollars to help people completely recover as much as they can. We think there will be another one of those this year and there will be additional dollars to help those folks still recovering from Ida.”
Rising flood insurance premiums are a concern along the coast, as well as in other areas of southern Louisiana.
“We’re fighting things like our flood insurance rate maps and Risk Rating 2.0 and how that adds to the anxiety of people who are still recovering, dealing with their homeowners’ insurance,” Chaisson said.
Cassidy says he continues to work on flood insurance issues. It is up to Congress to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program.
“It will be reauthorized this year, I’m confident in that,” he said. “But we have been putting together a bill which would both cap the amount of rate increases, make the program more affordable, more sustainable, more accountable to the taxpayer.
“It’s going to have some rate of growth (in premiums) because there’s inflation. But it has to be capped much lower than this 18 percent, which is compounding now, or else people will just be unable to afford their flood insurance.”
Cassidy also commented on the push to make public the affidavit related to the search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida estate. Cassidy called for as much transparency as possible.
“In effect, he admitted to having the documents, but said they were declassified,” Cassidy said. “Well, that’s something we should be able to know, and the process should be as transparent as possible.
“The American people need to know, was there something there or is this a political hit job?”