- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

Oct. 13

The Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on new route on rails:

Transportation is on the agenda now at the State Capitol and not just because of the poor road conditions and broken struts or other repairs that thousands of motorists must pay for in Louisiana compared to drivers in other states.

We think that it’s vital to look at ways to get more out of the roads and rails we already have and not just quarrel about the costs of adding lanes or building new bridges. The latter soak up resources, and Louisiana’s unforgiving coastal geology requires investment in maintenance and repairs of highways.

That said, the transportation finance panel working at the Capitol ought to spend some of its time on rail alternatives. It’s an under-appreciated fact about Louisiana transportation system that our rail network is one of the best - and we have in New Orleans and Baton Rouge two cities that could quite easily be models for commuter rail.

In the past year, leaders from the Mississippi River corridor have met with federal officials to promote a passenger rail link.

For leaders in the region, there is a particular urgency for transportation, because workers in the booming petrochemical corridor need easier commutes. And as anyone who travels Interstate 10 regularly knows, a single accident can cause huge delays and create a bottleneck at any time.

Studies released last year and earlier this year predict the costs of such an endeavor would top $400 million.

New plans pushed by regional leaders and underwritten by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation could significantly reduce operating costs. A new governor - Jindal is term-limited - could do what the current governor has failed to do, diversify our travel options in southeastern Louisiana.




Oct. 15

American Press, Lake Charles, Louisiana, on Ebola-related travel restrictions making sense:

With news that the Ebola epidemic has spread from West Africa to both the United States and Europe, it’s time for the U.S. government to step up screening at airports and impose commonsense travel restrictions on people arriving from nations facing outbreaks of the disease.

Doctors in Dallas last week diagnosed the disease in Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian national who had traveled from Monrovia. Officials have said Duncan was screened when he left Liberia. But he received no screening on arrival in the U.S., so no one knows if he had early signs of the disease when he got here.

It can take as many as 21 days before Ebola victims fall ill. But Duncan became ill within days after arriving in Dallas last month. Officials said he had been exposed to the disease in Liberia and soon after flew to Brussels, then Washington, D.C., and then Dallas. He is in critical condition and is being treated with experimental drugs.

Over 100 people were believed to have come into contact with him, including schoolchildren. Only four close family members, however, have been quarantined and are being monitored for signs of the disease. Ebola is spread via direct contact with blood or other bodily fluids from an infected person or animal.

A nurse in Spain recently contracted the disease after treating two priests who caught it in Africa and were taken to Spain for treatment.

That the disease wasn’t diagnosed during Duncan’s initial hospital visit is another cause for worry. He was given antibiotics - no good against a virus - and was sent home. He returned after a couple of days and was correctly diagnosed, quarantined and treated.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings has said officials were sluggish in responding to the needs of Duncan’s family. But he said the mistakes have been corrected and that “Dallas is safe and Dallas is calm.” CDC officials insist the disease will not spread to this nation. But the Duncan case shows how easily Ebola could spread if more stringent travel restrictions are not instituted.

The U.S. government should immediately order commonsense protective measures to be instituted at airports. Banning travel to and from West Africa should be considered if any more cases occur here. There is no need for panic, but both the CDC and the Obama administration should do more to ensure this disease doesn’t take root in the United States.




Oct. 13

The News-Star, Monroe, Louisiana, on pipeline deal:

A good portion of northeastern Louisiana can finally breathe in relief now that American Midstream Partners has agreed to build a new natural gas pipeline.

Last year, the Midla Pipeline owners asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for permission to abandon the line, citing safety concerns.

For the thousands of Louisianians in nine parishes who faced the possibility of a loss of natural gas service, the agreement is critical to their future.

“This isn’t just a pipeline; it’s a lifeline for economic development and for the quality of life for residents,” says Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission helped helped negotiate the deal between Midla’s owners and the 12 municipalities whose residents and businesses are served by the pipeline. FERC must still approve the preliminary agreement.

ArcLight Capital, after acquiring the Midla pipline, learned of safety hazards with the 87-year-old, 8-inch line. The company tried to negotiate new terms with customers, who felt threatened by an ultimatum of either raising rates to cover the cost of building a new pipeline or lose the line altogether. Midla filed to abandon the line after failing to reach any long-term contracts with customers to replace the line.

Instead, the settlement with ArcLight Capital will allow the company to build a new 50-mile, 12-inch pipeline. The importance of the deal cannot be overstated. Customers in Catahoula, Concordia, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Franklin, Ouachita, Richland, Tensas and West Feliciana parishes, as well as those in Natchez, Miss., will continue to heat their homes and water, cook and dry clothes without interruption.

For Copeland’s town, the news allows Vidalia to retain BASF, which manufactures drying agents for packaging and would have moved its plant had the pipeline been abandoned and not replaced. Copeland also said development of the $35 million Vidalia Port would have been harmed without access to natural gas.

Instead, the customers will be served by the new infrastructure that will enhance safety and open the door to new economic opportunities.



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