- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

May 8

American Press, Lake Charles, Louisiana, on leaving LHSAA rules alone:

From time to time, common sense takes a hiatus from the halls of the state Capitol.

Such is the case of an emotional fight that pits the Legislature against the Louisiana High School Athletic Association, the governing body for prep athletics in the state.

In question is the eligibility of a refugee from Africa whose appeal to circumvent a long-standing age eligibility rule has state lawmakers attempting to intervene on his behalf.

Clement Mubungirwa and his family fled their native Congo on foot and lived in a Ugandan refugee camp before arriving in the United States when Mubungirwa was 12. Mubungirwa’s father went missing and is presumed to have been killed by rebels that operated in Congo. Clement Mubungirwa suffered starvation and malaria during his formative years.

Once he arrived in this country, the youngster repeated two grades because he had little formal education and spoke little English.

He has since starred in soccer and football for Episcopal High School in Baton Rouge and has been penciled in as the school’s starting quarterback for the coming season.

The problem is that Mubungirwa turns 19 on July 7. The LHSAA’s age rule, which dates back decades, allows 19-year-olds to compete only if their birthday falls on or after Sept. 1.

Now some state lawmakers are taking up his cause, demanding that the LHSAA make an exception. It’s gone so far-fetched that state Rep. Neil Abramson, D-New Orleans, produced a bill that said if the LHSAA did not grant an exception to Mubungirwa, it would be banned from using the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for its high school state championship games this year.

State Rep. Eddie Lambert, R-Prairieville, correctly pointed out that Abramson’s bill sounded a lot like extortion.

LHSAA Executive Director Kenny Henderson said Mubungirwa’s eligibility appeal is not unique and that the LHSAA had no choice but to uphold its age rule no matter how compelling the athlete’s hardship. He said that in the past one player missed out on qualifying because he was born two minutes before midnight on Aug. 31.

“Each school in our state has a Clement. He may not be a refugee from Africa, but he has a similar story. He is from our own country, our own state,” said Henderson.

And therein lies the slippery slope of state lawmakers meddling and writing legislation for an exception that, in time, will likely lead to another exception and another and another.

As compelling and uplifting as Mubungirwa’s story is, it doesn’t merit state legislators attempting to circumvent long-standing LHSAA rules. Besides, don’t our state lawmakers have more pressing issues to confront?




May 12

The Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on state’s coast being under threat:

Perhaps it is not a scientific term, but in Louisiana we’re seeing a double-whammy.

Even as a scientific consensus forms around the impact of man’s industrial development on the globe, we see in Louisiana the subsidence of the coast, just as sea levels rise.

While there are those who for various reasons believe climate science is either wrong or overstated in terms of its effects, the consensus is against that minority view.

Instead, as the National Climate Assessment report issued by the White House stated, Louisiana is already seeing an increase in the number of days when temperatures get above 95 degrees, and the region will continue to see coastal vulnerability increase.

“Based on sea level rise trends, today’s occasional floods are tomorrow’s high tides,” said Kristin Dow, professor of geography at the University of South Carolina. “Climate change is happening here in the Southeast and we’re feeling the effects.”

As one of the authors of the report, Dow could provide some particular insight into the South’s problems with this rising tide of bad news.

She cited Port Fourchon, one of America’s most essential energy ports. Only one road supplies the vast infrastructure of boats that service the offshore oil and gas industry. …

Nationally, climate change has been seen in more episodes of extreme weather, such as prolonged droughts or heavier downpours of rain, which can cause localized flooding.

Other concerns include an increased frequency of severe storms, fewer frost-free days, ocean acidification and ice melt. …

The Gulf Coast states face rising costs and losses from sea level rise and tropical storms, which will push more water inland.

Today, the Gulf Coast states average about $14 billion in damage from hurricane winds, sinking land and sea level rise, according to the report. Future losses could rise to anywhere between $18 billion a year to $23 billion a year with about 50 percent of the increase related to climate change, the report quotes from a 2010 publication from America’s Wetland Foundation and Entergy.

All this ought to alarm anyone in Louisiana, even those who don’t buy the big-picture view of climate change. Because even if our coast is vulnerable to only subsidence, that is a substantial threat.

We urge people in Louisiana to take a look at this issue with clear eyes. If you are of a certain age, you can see already the dramatic effects of coastal erosion and subsidence along Louisiana’s diminishing shoreline. Add sea-level rise and it truly is a double-whammy.

And not a distant threat, but an urgent one.




May 13

Courier, Houma, Louisiana, on inspection failures:

The U.S. recently marked the fourth anniversary of the catastrophic BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The deadly explosion that caused the disaster and the months of thick oil spewing into the water off our coast were horrific reminders of the dangers that can be associated with oil and gas production.

The workers who play such a valuable role in that industry, the many who depend on it for their energy and the people and businesses who are close to oil wells deserve to know that these installations are carefully monitored.

Unfortunately, a new federal report prompts important concerns about the agency tasked with keeping a watchful eye on the thousands of oil and gas wells that dot the nation - including those in Louisiana.

While the Deepwater Horizon explosion and resulting spill happened in the Gulf, many of the nation’s oil and gas wells are on land. They are regulated by the federal Bureau of Land Management, but a report by the Government Accountability Office casts doubt on how carefully it is carrying out its important responsibilities.

The report says many of the BLM’s shortcomings stem from a lack of money in its budget. But that is little comfort to the people who depend on the federal government to make sure these wells don’t pose an inordinate risk to public safety or the environment. …

This situation is particularly distressing at a time when our nation is so rapidly expanding its use of fracking technologies to extract oil and gas from deep beneath the earth, a process that already worries some environmental activists who see it as a possible threat to water quality.

Regardless of whether those fears turn out in the long run to have merit, the federal agency is giving the public little reason to trust that adequate safeguards are in place.

Part of the answer could be putting more money into the inspection program, but clearly there are other factors at work as well. The fact that so many inspections have been neglected and so many more sites have not even been classified is a serious blow to public confidence, one that will take a concerted effort to overcome.



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