QUOTES OF THE WEEK
"I'm on the side of conservatives getting back to core conservative values. There are a lot of us from the South who hold those values, which I think the party is supposed to be about. We strayed from them in the past few years, and that's why we performed so badly in the national elections." — U.S. Sen. David Vitter, in an interview with The Washington Times
"In contrast to the kind of luvfest (Sen.) David Vitter is used to, this trip was legal, public and no money changed hands. As we all remember, the last time David Vitter made public comments about a 'luvfest,' he ended up begging for forgiveness." — Louisiana Democratic Party spokesman Kevin Franck, in response to an Internet ad from Vitter's team attacking his putative challenger, Rep. Charlie Melancon, for attending what the ad called a "Liberal LuvFest" in Massachusetts.
"Our government doesn't exist to protect voters from interests, it exists to protect interests from voters." — Rolling Stone reporter Matt Taibbi, on the Senate Democrats' plan for health-care reform
Landrieu: More 'Fair Shares'
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-New Orleans, has introduced legislation that would guarantee a fair share of offshore oil and natural gas revenue goes to coastal states. The concept might sound familiar. In 2006, Louisiana and three other states were granted a 37.5 percent stake in energy development off its shores through the Domenici-Landrieu Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act. It was a landmark measure that is expected to send tens of billions of dollars to the Bayou State in coming decades. Now Landrieu wants other energy-producing states to have a piece of the pie. "As our nation weans itself off foreign oil and transitions to the next generation of energy, we need offshore energy production in U.S. waters to get us there," Landrieu says. "Coastal states will play a key role in building that 'energy bridge' if Congress can guarantee them their fair share of revenue and conservation royalties. This approach has worked in Louisiana, and it can for other states as well."
Current federal law sends 100 percent of oil and gas royalties from production off the Outer Continental Shelf — outside of Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Alabama — to the federal treasury. The proposed Domestic Energy Security Act of 2009 would grant participating states the same 37.5 percent of all rents, royalties and bonuses from environmentally responsible oil and gas development in adjacent federal waters. Additionally, the bill would ensure that 12.5 percent of all new revenues derived from offshore drilling would be deposited into the Land and Water Conservation Fund. It would likewise permit leasing of the Destin Dome area near the Florida Panhandle. — Jeremy Alford
Kevin Franck, the new communications director for the Louisiana Democratic Party, noted in a recent email that the political lexicon has expanded to include "Vitterisms" — references to the sex scandal involving U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-Metairie. Franck's take: "Wide stance. Hiking the Appalachian Trail. Now we can add 'doing a Vitter' to the new lexicon of Republican sex scandals. In a story about (Sen.) John Ensign, (the Washington D.C.-based Web site) Politico quotes an anonymous GOP aide saying that the Nevada Senator is 'trying to do a Vitter' by refusing to come clean and pretending nothing ever happened." Sen. David Vitter managed to say virtually nothing but that he was sorry for committing a 'very serious sin' after his name turned up in the phone book of the alleged D.C. Madam in 2007. — Alford
Deader Than Dead
The size of this year's so-called dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, which runs practically the entire coastline at 3,000 square miles, is smaller than forecast, according to Dr. Nancy Rabalais, executive director of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium. She adds, however, that the dead zone, which is usually limited to water just above the sea floor, was so severe where it did occur that it is extending closer to the water's surface — a new trend. Earlier this summer, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association sponsored forecast models developed by a group of researchers who predicted a larger-than-normal dead zone area of between 7,450 and 8,456 square miles. The forecast was driven primarily by the high nitrate loads and high freshwater flows from the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers in spring 2009, as measured by the U.S. Geological Survey.
Rabalais believes the smaller dead zone is due to unusual weather patterns that re-oxygenated the waters, among other factors. "The winds and waves were high in the area to the west of the Atchafalaya River delta and likely mixed oxygen into these shallower waters prior to the cruise, thus reducing the area of the zone in that region," says Rabalais. "The variability we see within each summer highlights the continuing need for multiple surveys to measure the size of the dead zone in a more systematic fashion." The dead zone is fueled by nutrient runoff, principally from agricultural activity, which stimulates an overgrowth of algae that sinks, decomposes, and consumes most of the life-giving oxygen supply in the water. The Gulf of Mexico dead zone is of particular concern because it threatens commercial and recreational Gulf fisheries that generate about $2.8 billion annually. The average size of the dead zone over the past five years is about 6,000 square miles. The interagency Gulf of Mexico/Mississippi River Watershed Nutrient Task Force hopes to cut that figure to 2,000 square miles or less by 2015. — Alford