Within a couple of hours of posting this story, LouisianaVoice received a telephone call. The display on our phone indicated it was from one Holly Boffy. Boffy is the District 7 member of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE). That is in the southwest corner of Louisiana. Why would she be calling us? we wondered.
It turns out that it was a robocall on behalf of the candidacy of Scott Angelle for the District 2 Public Service Commission seat.
So, why was a BESE member from the Lake Charles area allowing her telephone to be used on behalf of a Public Service Commission candidate from the Baton Rouge area? In all likelihood, she doesn’t know bean dip about the machinations of the Public Service Commission.
The answer is simple.
Boffy, of Youngsville, Louisiana, received two $2,500 campaign contributions in her run for office last fall from Jindal—one on Aug. 25 and a second on Aug. 29. Angelle was originally appointed by former Gov. Kathleen Blanco but held over by Jindal as Secretary of Natural Resources—until he abandoned his post in the middle of the crisis over that toxic sinkhole on Bayou Corne in Assumption Parish.
Connect the dots.
The Piyush Jindal dynasty won’t be satisfied until it has complete control of the state, every agency, board and commission, from top to bottom.
Whatever your sentiments about the resumption of offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, voters in Louisiana Public Service Commission District 2 would do well to examine the records of the top two contenders in Tuesday’s election to replace retiring commission member and Vice-chairman James Field.
In spite of the erroneous claim by one crackpot blogger that Scott Angelle faked that TV ad showing him addressing thousands of rabid supporters (oh, wait; that was LouisianaVoice, wasn’t it?), it is still worthwhile to take a close look at the candidate. His performance before a congressional committee nearly a year following BP’s disastrous Deepwater Horizon explosion that killed 11 men and injured 17 others and which produced a oil spill that spewed 4.9 million barrels of oil into the gulf over a three-month period would be comical were it not so pathetic.
At the time of his questioning by Congressman Ed Markey (D-Mass.) during the March 16, 2011, hearing by the House Natural Resources Committee, Angelle was Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources.
He recently resigned that position in the midst of the still-ongoing Bayou Corne sinkhole disaster in northern Assumption Parish to seek the District 2 Public Service Commission seat, leaving it to others to grapple with a potentially disastrous situation that has produced the sinkhole that is now more than five acres in size and which has caused the evacuation of scores of residents.
Nor has his former boss, Gov. Piyush Jindal shown his face at the sinkhole site despite his propensity to seek camera face time anytime an oil spill or hurricane threatens the state. That’s because the Bayou Corne situation came about because of permits issued on his watch.
And lest we be accused of being a shill for his leading opponent, State Rep. Erich Ponti, rest assured we have some pointed remarks about his misleading TV ad campaign as well.
Besides touting his business acumen, Ponti makes the claim in his ads that he balanced the state budget which, for those even vaguely familiar with the Louisiana legislative process, is an outrageous claim, a preposterous misrepresentation.
First of all, state law mandates that the legislature pass a balanced budget. Unlike Congress, the legislature is forbidden from approving a deficit budget. So, Ponti and his 104 colleagues in the House and the 39 in the Senate in reality had no choice in balancing the budget. It is a claim that each of the other 143 legislators have just as much right as Ponti to make—none.
Second, Ponti is not even a member of any of the House committees that consider the budget before it goes to the House floor. He is chairman of the House Commerce Committee, but it does not consider the budget. Neither does the House Committee on Homeland Security or the Joint Committee on Homeland Security, on both of which he sits. Nor does the Capital Region Legislative Delegation or the Louisiana Republican Legislative Delegation, the two caucuses of which he is a member.
He is not a member of the House Appropriations Committee. Nor is he a member of the Joint Budget Committee or even the Legislative Budget Control Committee.
So, any claim on his part that he had a hand in balancing the state budget is, at best, disingenuous and at worst, an outright lie.
But back to that hearing in March of 2011:
Here are excerpts from the questioning by Markey, the ranking member of the Natural Resources Committee, and Angelle’s responses:
• Markey, discussing safety comparisons that show better safety records for rigs in European waters than those in U.S. waters even though the same companies were operating in each, asked: “Don’t you think we need to insure that these rigs are operating safely in order to protect lives of workers on these rigs? Don’t you think that the safety recommendations of the BP Commission should be implemented?”
• Angelle: “I’m not familiar with the safety recommendations.”
• Markey: “You haven’t analyzed the recommendations?”
• Angelle: “I have not.”
• Markey: “Given your job, don’t you think you should’ve looked at those safety recommendations?”
• Angelle: “I have not analyzed those recommendations, sir.”
• Markey: “Could you analyze them and give a set of responses to the safety recommendations back to the committee?”
• Angelle: Sir, I have not analyzed all those recommendations. I will tell you that in my comments, I indicated it would not be business as usual and we support it not being business as usual.”
• Markey: “Does that include implementing the safety recommendations of the BP Commission?”
• Angelle: “I am not aware of all of the safety recommendations of the BP Commission.”
• Markey: “Are you aware of any of the safety recommendations of the BP Commission?”
• Angelle: “I am aware of some of the safety recommendations, yes sir.”
• Markey: “Are there any of those safety recommendations that you recommend be implemented? Can you tell us what those are?”
• Angelle: “I would just simply say that generally, I believe that repetitive safety measures as…blow out preventers and those kinds of things are very important. I certainly understand containment issues (as) being very, very important but I would say again that having the new regulations that have been promulgated, we are now at a point that the industry has demonstrated to the government the ability…”
• Markey: “Even though you are not familiar with the safety recommendations of the BP Commission, you’re ready to say it’s safe and people should go out there, is that what you’re saying?”
• Angelle: That’s not what I said. I said that it’s my understanding that the Bureau of Ocean Energy has promulgated new rules and regulations and the industry has demonstrated an ability to comply with those and now is the time to begin issuing permits inasmuch as industry has begun to comply with those recommendations.”
• Markey: “And they issued those recommendations last month. So we’re ready to go. Are you satisfied with the recommendations that were promulgated by the…”
• Angelle: “It’s not for me to be satisfied. I come here not to blame but to bring about a solution and that is the industry has demonstrated an ability and we need a sense of urgency in issuing permits.”
• Markey: “In your testimony, you say that seven rigs have already left the Gulf since the moratorium was declared. But according to the Department of the Interior, at least four of these seven rigs have returned to the Gulf in 2011 and five new rigs have already arrived or are scheduled to. Overall, there are 125 (rigs) in the Gulf of Mexico today compared to 122 one year ago. Doesn’t it misrepresent what is happening in the Gulf to only mention the rigs that have left without mentioning the new ones that have come in?”
• Angelle: I would say that whatever new ones that have come in, they are not working. It’s just inventory and it’s like having automobiles on a lot; you can have a lot of automobiles on the lot but if you’re not selling them, you’re not creating economic activity.”
• Markey: “But we have the new regulations and we’re ready to go and the administration is now issuing new leases and the rigs are returning. These companies are capitalists; they are returning and new ones are arriving, so it represents a confidence on the oil industry in what is happening or else they would not be returning and they would not be adding new rigs.”
• Angelle: “The Obama administration is not issuing new leases. The Lease sales scheduled for this year have been cancelled.”
• Markey: “I do not think oil companies are sending rigs back just to sit idle. That’s not how oil companies operate. They’re sending them back because there are new opportunities for them.”
So what this race boils down to—or at least what it should boil down to is these two questions:
• If Scott Angelle would walk into a congressional hearing totally unprepared to discuss something as important as proposed safety regulations for offshore drilling—an issue that was certain to impact the Louisiana economy and hundreds of jobs for Louisiana workers—what makes voters think he would adequately prepare himself for such matters as utility rate increases and regulations for, say, the trucking industry in Louisiana as a member of the Louisiana Public Service Commission?
• Is Scott Angelle simply being opportunistic in trying to set himself up for a run at the governor’s office in 2015?