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Louisiana editorial roundup

November 27, 2019 GMT

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

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Nov. 27

The Advocate on regulating emissions:

In Louisiana’s economy, it’s about oil and gas. That may seem obvious, but the phrase typically conjures up mental images of oil rigs, the exploration and production segment of the industry. A huge component of the energy industry in the state is what the experts call downstream.

Those are big employment centers along the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, and in the Lake Charles area on the Calcasieu River: refineries and petrochemical manufacturing complexes.

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In the case of Baton Rouge’s ExxonMobil — formerly Standard Oil — the mutually beneficial relationship with oil refining goes back more than a century.

In every case, though, there has always been controversy over industrial development, also dating back a long time, to Huey P. Long’s famed battles with Standard Oil in the 1930s. More recently, Louisiana struggled with decades of government’s failure to protect air, water and land from emissions from plants as well as drilling sites.

History ought to be updated. We know better now how to make industrial development work more safely.

One of the new fights over petrochemical development is in St. James Parish over a $9.4 billion plastics complex, now under environmental review.

This is a huge economic development win for the parish and for the state. Formosa promises more than 1,000 high-paying jobs in a state and a region that desperately needs them.

Another 8,000 temporary construction jobs would come to the area. Building such a large facility will take years. And Formosa is one of the big projects that business leaders expect will take up some of the employment slack in industrial construction.

The plant’s construction is estimated to generate $500 million in direct sales in the region and $362 million in state and local taxes, with about $200 million for the St. James area parishes.

These are huge numbers, and that is a reason why leaders in the parish and the state are enthusiastic about the prospect of another big plant in the region.

However, such a big facility is inevitably a flashpoint for criticism, as industrial development on the river is concentrated. At one of the many public hearings on Formosa, some residents and environmental activists criticized the proposal.

The industry can point to significant reductions in emissions over the last few decades, but there is no question that those will increase, in a region where much of the wealth comes from petrochemical manufacturing.

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But the extensive reviews and public hearings also point to Louisiana’s better understanding of how to regulate industrial facilities. It’s vital that the activists hold the Department of Environmental Quality and other agencies, as well as the company, to the highest standard of scrutiny.

Online: www.theadvocate.com

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Nov. 27

The (Lake Charles) American Press on Medicaid transparency:

Millions of people are dependent for their health care on one of the governments largest social programs, Medicaid. But taxpayers who fund that program need assurance the program of is as free as possible from waste, fraud and abuse.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced recently a new rule that is designed to give the program more transparency and less waste.

The new rule is titled the “2019 Medicaid Fiscal Accountability Regulation,” and it is designed to “help ensure that state supplemental payments and financing arrangements are transparent and value-driven.”

“The last several years have seen a rapid increase in Medicaid spending from $456 billion in 2013 to an estimated $576 billion in 2016. Much of the growth came from the federal share that grew from $263 billion to an estimated $363 billion during the same period,” CMS said.

In addition, supplemental payments, or additional payments to providers beyond the base Medicaid payment for particular services, have steadily increased from 9.4 percent of all other payments in FY 2010 to 17.5 percent in FY 2017.

With this significant growth comes on urgent responsibility to ensure sound stewardship and oversight of the Medicaid program.

Currently, CMS lacks available and timely and adequate State Medicaid payment and financing data to enable the most effective oversight of the Medicaid program.

Through this proposed rule, CMS continues its commitment to strengthening the oversight and fiscal integrity of the Medicaid program.

In addition, CMS has determined that the agency does not always have adequate information to always properly determine when a state is financing its state share of Medicaid expenditures from impermissible sources or otherwise making inappropriate payments.

Also, oversight agencies have made recommendations to CMS to better oversee and understand Medicaid supplemental payments, disproportionate share hospital payments and associated non-federal share.

The major highlights of the rule are: Improve reporting on supplemental payments; clarify Medicaid financing definitions; and reduce questionable financing mechanisms.

The government owes it to both the users of these programs, as well as the taxpayers, to run these big government programs with the utmost honesty and efficiency.

Online: https://www.americanpress.com

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Nov. 26

The Houma Courier on rooting for Nicholls State University football team:

Lately it feels like every other week is another “biggest game in school history” for Nicholls football.

First it was the Colonels hosting a playoff game for the first time in school history in 2017. The next year it was reaching the second round of the playoffs for the first time in three decades. Just last week it was a winner-take-all River Bell Classic with rival Southeastern Louisiana.

This Saturday’s (Nov. 30) first-round playoff game against North Dakota State probably isn’t in the “biggest of all time” category like the others. Over the past three years, reaching the postseason and competing for titles has become so routine it’s simply business as usual at this point. Making the playoffs has become the baseline expectation at a program that just five years ago failed to win a single game.

But that’s not why this game is important or why Nicholls deserves a packed house. Yes, a lot is on the line, but a positive outcome is only a bonus.

Saturday we say goodbye to an era of Nicholls football we may never see again along the banks of Bayou Lafourche as the winningest senior class in school history plays inside John L. Guidry Stadium one last time.

Fans already said a small goodbye on senior day two weeks ago, but there was still hope that Nicholls would win out and get to host another playoff game. It was a goodbye clouded by the belief it wasn’t the real ending, that there was one more hiding in the distance.

And, to their credit, they were right. There was one more home game remaining in the tank.

Unfortunately the odds Nicholls will host another playoff game this year are infinitesimal, even if it can beat North Dakota on Saturday and then upset No. 1 overall seed North Dakota State on the road next week. Nicholls did submit a bid to host multiple rounds, but it would take several monumental upsets of teams with higher rankings and much larger budgets to steal a late-round bid.

But even if Nicholls remains a national contender next year and years beyond, it’ll never again be this team of players that took a chance on a losing program and turned it into a well-respected powerhouse. Future players will never appreciate the anguish of defeat or the thrill of an upset the same way this group has. All of their success will be on the shoulders of players who did it without a similar foundation.

Saturday isn’t the biggest game in school history. It isn’t even the biggest this month. It is, however, one of the most bittersweet, as fans watch a group of legends fade off into the distance.

For one final time, let’s pack Guidry to the brim Saturday. There’s never been a group more deserving of a proper send-off.

Online: https://www.houmatoday.com