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Someone (and we are not pointing fingers at anyone—yet) has attempted to plant a computer virus on the LouisianaVoice web page which, once you log onto our site, first gives you a virus message, locks you out of the site and then gives you a message that the site cannot be found whenever you attempt to log back on.

We first got the warning from one of our readers earlier today and when we tried to log on a couple of hours later, we got a virus warning. Once we closed the page, we found that we were unable to log back on and we received the “site not found” message.

We solved the problem by re-booting (logging off our computer and then logging back on) and found that the problem was solved.

Should you experience the same problem, simply re-boot your computer and you should be able to access LouisianaVoice without any further problems.

As we said, we are not pointing fingers at anyone, but we will say this much:

Last year, when we were writing a series of stories about the shenanigans of Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control Director Troy Hebert, we were told by one of his agents that Hebert had boasted that it would be a simple matter for him to have his IT people to hack into our computer.

We made a direct email inquiry of Hebert as to the veracity of that report. More than a year later, we are still awaiting his response.

Again, we’re not point fingers. We’re just saying….

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“Hopefully the board can—or someone will—challenge the constitutionality of the rogue amendment.”

—State Rep. Kevin Pearson (R-Slidell), chairman of the House Retirement Committee, commenting on the amendment to SB 294 which added $30,000 per year to the retirement income of State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson.

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The response to our first-ever fundraiser has been wonderful. The readers who have responded have done so generously and there is simply no way to adequately express my heart-felt appreciation.

As good as the response has been, however, I still need additional funding to accomplish all my goals. I constantly get tips and information on stories that need to be written and the stack is growing. Without additional writers, there simply is no way to get to everything that needs to be covered. And as you probably know, my goal when I launched LouisianaVoice was to keep my readers informed about the stories that don’t get reported.

I simply refuse to take a press release and run it without examining the story completely. I was taught by my grandfather to question authority. By that he did not mean to break laws or defy convention. He meant to never accept what people said without examining the motivations for their saying it. He also taught me not to listen to what politicians say but rather to what they do not say. That is the legacy by which I want LouisianaVoice to be known.

Please, if you have not already done so, help us to continue our coverage and to bring you even more revealing stories about your state government, the money that runs it and the lengths to which office holders will go to obtain financial rewards—be it campaign contributions from or jobs with special interests.

You may contribute by credit card by clicking on “Donate” at the right hand side of our page http://louisianavoice.com/ or you pay by check to:

Capital News Service/LouisianaVoice

107 North College West

Denham Springs, LA. 70726

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Only two more days remain in our first ever fundraiser. We have been working free of charge for more than three years to bring you the stories behind the stories of Louisiana political corruption, misappropriation of public funds, waste of taxpayer dollars, abuse by public officials and the undue influence of money on politics that no one else has provided.

Our work involves extensive requests for public information, researching thousands of pages of documents and frequent travel hundreds of miles to places like Shreveport, Lake Charles, Alexandria, Monroe and New Orleans in our endless pursuit of facts that are important to Louisiana’s citizens.

We deeply appreciate the generous contributions of those who have responded. For those who still have not, please consider what you can afford to do to help us—whether it’s $5, $50 or $500. We don’t accept advertising because we insist on being independent. Neither do we charge a subscription fee because we want LouisianaVoice to be available to everyone. Nor do we receive grants or any other type of funding. We depend solely on our readers’ generosity.

Just click on the “Donate” button at the right below. (Hint: you cannot access the “Donate” button via your email copy of this post. You must go to our web page at http://louisianavoice.com/ to do so.

If you are still unable to access the “Donate” button, you may make checks payable to:

Capital News Service/LouisianaVoice

107 North College West

Denham Springs, Louisiana 70726.

Whether or not you can afford to help, please know we deeply appreciate your loyal readership and your moral support.

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Another national ranking and yet another smack-down for Louisiana but this time there are underlying political reasons for the state’s poor showing.

A report by 24/7 Wall Street shows that Louisiana is the ninth-worst state in which to be unemployed despite the state’s 10th lowest unemployment rate of 4.5 percent. (Mississippi, as it does in virtually every such ranking, is the worst in the nation, lending credence to Louisiana’s unofficial state motto: At least we’re not Mississippi.)

http://247wallst.com/special-report/2014/06/24/the-best-and-worst-states-to-be-unemployed/

Of the worst 10 states in which to receive unemployment benefits, seven are in the South. Besides Louisiana and Mississippi, the worst 10 include Tennessee (10th worst), Georgia (8th), Virginia (7th), Arizona (6th), Illinois (5th), Kentucky (4th), Michigan (3rd), and Alabama (2nd worst).

And for those who believe those drawing unemployment are just lazy deadbeats, as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and a lot of politicians would have us all believe, consider this: only 24.3 percent of weekly wages are covered by Louisiana unemployment benefits, second lowest percentage in the nation.

And just so you know, when Gov. Bobby Jindal traipses all over the country speaking at select venues and appearing on carefully chosen television talk news shows to boast about Louisiana’s soaring economic growth, it’s interesting to note that the state’s one-year job growth of .7 percent, 11th lowest in the nation, tends to cast doubt on the governor’s self-serving claims of prosperity, happiness and security among Louisiana’s workers.

Another key point Jindal conveniently overlooks, omits, or simply conceals from the public is the fact that only 20 percent of the state’s unemployed are even receiving benefits, tied for seventh-lowest in the U.S. To help Jindal overcome his apparent weakness at math, that leaves 80 percent of the state’s unemployed with no benefits.

And if you believe the state’s treatment of the unemployed is shabby, let’s consider how that policy dovetails with the consideration given injured workers who dare apply for worker’s compensation. The two programs are heavily stacked against workers who are laid off or hurt.

And why is that? Well, during the 2013 legislative session, House Bill 303 by Rep. Herbert Dixon (D-Alexandria, more appropriately, DINO-Alexandria) was approved 94-11 in the House and 38-0 in the Senate and subsequently signed into law by Jindal as Act 39.

That bill made it considerably more difficult for applicants to appeal denials of their applications for unemployment benefits by squeezing the time frame in favor of employers.

The previous law required that notices be sent by certified mail and the applicant was given 15 days from receipt of the notice to file an appeal.

HB 303 changed the notification method by deleting the certified mail requirement and started the 15-day clock on the day the notice was mailed or electronically transmitted. The bill further shortened the time for the appeal tribunal to mail a “notice to appear for a hearing” from 10 days to seven.

This year, HB 819 (which thankfully, failed to make it out of committee) was a particularly ominous bill from the standpoint of workers who are laid off.

That bill, by Rep. Joseph Lopinto (R-Metairie), would have presumed that if an employer “discharges and employee and then replaces the employee quickly, the employee was discharged with cause,” and thus ineligible for unemployment benefits.

That’s pretty heavy-handed even for the most ardent opponent of employee rights.

And while there are the periodic legislative attempts to weaken unions, dilute workers compensation laws and curtail unemployment benefits, most of the more subtle, under-the-radar efforts come in through the back door, seldom detected by those affected until it’s too late.

Take, for example, the March 5, 2013, order of Louisiana Office of Workers’ Compensation (OWC) director and chief judge (at the request of OWC’s bill review company Qmedtrix of Portland, Oregon) which transferred 45 pending cases then split between two workers’ compensation judges in the Lake Charles District to Judge Shelly Dick.

Judge Dick was appointed ad hoc workers’ compensation judge in 2008 by then OWC Director Chris Broadwater (now a state representative and Vice Chairman of the House Labor and Industrial Relations Committee) and whose name will crop up again and again.

On the face of the order, the order carried no special significance—until one began to peel back the layers that revealed:

  • Judge Dick had already been nominated and confirmed by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee for a federal judgeship. In other words, the order would transfer the 45 cases to a judge that OWC knew full well would be leaving in short order.
  • OWC made it clear at the time that an ad hoc judge would hear the cases whenever Judge Dick moved to the federal bench and the only person mentioned at the time was attorney Amanda Clark, the former law partner of then-OWC Director Chris Broadwater.
  • The OWC order also transferred cases to the law firm of (ahem) Forrester & Dick (yes, the firm in which Shelly Dick was a partner), even though the law firm represented clients who were defendants in some of the 45 cases.
  • Neither of the two judges to whom the 45 cases were originally assigned issued or signed the transfer order.
  • Broadwater resigned as OWC director in 2010 and returned to the law firm of Forrester & Dick.
  • In 2011, Broadwater was elected to the Louisiana House and in 2012, resigned from Forrester & Dick whereupon he was retained by Qmedtrix to assist in the defense of its Louisiana cases involving Qmedtrix’s re-pricing of workers’ compensation outpatient bills based on “usual and customary” charge reductions.
  • By November of 2012, rumors began to surface that Qmedtrix and Broadwater were meeting with Broadwater’s successor, OWC Director Wes Hataway in an effort to get the cases stayed or funneled to a more favorable judge. Broadwater would admit (on his state ethics disclosure forms, no less) that the meetings did, in fact, occur: “Met with Director of OWC discussing process of resolving disputes over medical billing.” Altogether, Broadwater admitted to meeting with Hataway “three or four times” in person and speaking with him “10 or 15 times” on the phone—all while billing Qmedtrix $275 per hour.

Such meetings are known in the legal realm as “ex parte” meetings, a Latin term meaning done by, or on the application of one party alone.

And though Clark ultimately was never appointed to ad hoc judge, while she was still under consideration for that post, she attended a trial in Lafayette in January of 2013 presided over by Dick, her law partner. That case involved unpaid medical bills for physician-dispensed prescriptions and the defendant was LUBA Workers’ Comp.

In other words, LUBA’s case was tried by a judge whose law firm had been hired by LUBA but neither the court, Clark, nor LUBA disclosed Forrester& Dick’s representation at the trial.

“The Amanda Clark-LUBA connection is troubling,” said attorneys for plaintiff Christus Health Southwest Louisiana, because Christus Health’s legal counsel currently had pending more than 50 provider claims involving LUBA, and “LUBA, like Mr. Broadwater (who also represented LUBA) apparently believes it is entitled to engage in improper ex parte communications with the OWC director in relation to pending cases.”

Broadwater testified by deposition that Hataway, on Nov. 21, 2012, even sought his opinion as to whether the Hataway has the authority to stay the “usual and customary” cases and Broadwater advised him that he could. That meeting took place in Hataway’s office, according to court documents. Also present besides Broadwater, who attended on behalf of Qmedtrix, was Doug Cochran of the Stone Pigman law firm (Qmedtrix’s attorney), and representatives of Qmedtrix who attended by telephone.

Following that meeting, Cochran wrote Hataway a “Dear Wes” letter on Nov. 28 in which he outlined “the most efficient manner to proceed,” which included an order staying all claims procedures and having all the cases heard by a single judge. “Once these matters are stayed, we look forward to mediation,” Cochran said.

Mediation after claimants had all their cases stayed with no ability to more their claims forward would be of decided advantage to Qmedtrix.

Cochran’s letter continued: “Once the cases (past and future) have all be docketed with a single judge, the next step is to provide him/her the proper tools to resolve the cases at the mean of usual and customary.”

This meant that not only would the cases be transferred to a single judge as requested, but Qmedtrix also was suggesting that Hataway actually instruct the OWC hand-picked judge what evidence to consider and how to rule.

“We look forward to the stay being issued at the earliest opportunity so that the dockets of the OWC courts can be cleared of the UC (usual and customary) issue. Matters such as these UC cases are more adequately handled by experts rather than after contrary court opinions,” the Cochran letter said.

“Qmedtrix takes the position that medical provider claimants should have their underpayment claims decided by Wes Hataway and Qmedtrix rather than the court system,” Christus Health said.

Broadwater, in his deposition admitted that he was aware that his client Qmedtrix was involved in the usual and customary litigation before OWC at the time the ex parte discussions took place.

“A search of the entire Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Act and the OWC Hearing Officer Rules reveals that there is no legal authority for the OWC director to either stay or transfer pending workers’ compensation claims,” Christus claims, adding that state statute, “which is the only statute addressing the transfer of OWC cases, makes it clear that the workers’ compensation judge (not the director) may transfer cases with the consent of the parties.”

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The first ever LouisianaVoice fundraiser has only three days to go and to those who have contributed either by PayPal or by personal check, we are deeply humbled by and grateful for the enthusiastic response. We have almost reached our goal and with your help, we can make it. Please help support us in our effort to give you the stories behind the stories.

We at LouisianaVoice attempt to illustrate how events and people are interconnected by money and power. You won’t find that in any other news reports on Louisiana politics. Most issues in state politics can be traced directly to campaign contributions or the influence that money buys—and that’s what we try to bring to you through our research and reporting.

Your contribution can go a long way in assisting us in our efforts to shine the glaring light of true transparency on the actions of our elected officials.

Please click on the “Donate” button at the lower right and help us keep the light on.

For those experiencing problems with the donate button, our address is:

107 North College West

Denham Springs, Louisiana 70726

Checks should be made payable to Capital News Service/LouisianaVoice.

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In more than three years of reporting stories state politicians would rather not see reported, we are currently conducting our very first fundraising campaign to defray expenses and hopefully, pay for an additional reporter or two. If you like stories like the one below, don’t forget to click on the “Donate” button below, at right.

For those experiencing problems with the donate button, our address is:

107 North College West

Denham Springs, Louisiana 70726

Checks should be made payable to Capital News Service/LouisianaVoice.

Thanks to each of you for your continued support.

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It has been nearly four years and more than one million words since the inception of LouisianaVoice and today we have readers in every state. We constantly receive information and tips from readers that often lead to groundbreaking stories about backroom deals in state government that affect our lives on a daily basis.

Along the way, the Washington Post named LouisianaVoice as one of only two Louisiana-based blogs among the top 100 state political blogs in the nation (Bob Mann’s Something Like the Truth was the other). We hope that our stories have helped keep some of our political leaders in check but if not, we hope just as fervently that we have shown a bright light on their activities.

Unfortunately, while the growing number of tips has expanded our coverage, it also has increased our operational costs substantially.

And because we don’t charge a subscription fee or accept cheesy advertising that offers secret cancer cures, methods in which to cut gasoline bills or high blood pressure breakthroughs, we have only one other source of revenue: your donations.

We have been reluctant to ask for donations from our readers, but we have reached a point that we need to add at least one, perhaps two additional reporters to keep up with the abundance of stories about what your elected and appointed officials do behind closed doors.

If you like the service we provide and would like to see our reporting on an expanded basis, please click on the “Donate” button on the right and contribute whatever amount you would like either by PayPal or credit card.

If you prefer, you may pay by check, of course. Please make checks payable to Capital News Service/LouisianaVoice. Our address is:

107 North College West

Denham Springs, LA. 70726

Your loyalty to LouisianaVoice is both humbling and greatly appreciated.

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When LouisianaVoice broke the story about the stealth agreement between the Louisiana Department of Education (DOE) and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. whereby DOE would provide News Corp. with personal information on Louisiana’s public school students for use by a company affiliated with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the resulting firestorm resulted in cancellation of the agreement.

Or did it?

Remember, too, that it was Murdoch who, in 2010, speaking of the enormous business opportunity in public education awaiting corporate America, said, “When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S.”

In June of 2012, Erin Bendily, assistant deputy superintendent for departmental support and former education policy adviser to Gov. Bobby Jindal emailed Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White:

“I think we need to start with a very strong introduction and embed more CCSS (Common Core State Standards) alignment/integration throughout. This sounds harsh, but we should show that our current/old educator evaluation system is crap and the new system is stellar.”

Common Core, passed by the Legislature, was vetoed last Friday by Jindal who, like John Kerry and the $87 billion supplemental appropriation for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2002, was for it before he was against it, but the controversy continues. Remember, it was our old friend Dave “Lefty” Lefkowith, that super commuter who flies back and forth between Baton Rouge and his Los Angeles home on a weekly basis, who first advised White to “forget” about communicating with the media or public about departmental plans to launch DOE’s Course Choice program in March 2013.

On Jan. 2, 2013, White emailed Lefkowith at 6:19 p.m., asking, “How we doing on communications? We have a huge launch in two months.”

“We just decided amongst ourselves: ‘Forget it,’” Lefkowith responded at 7:20 p.m. “Problem with that?”

“Fair,” White responded one minute later.

But at 6:53 p.m., 34 minutes after White’s email to Lefkowith and 27 minutes before Lefkowith’s response, White emailed Ken Bradford, assistant superintendent for the department’s Office of Content: “Okay. Time to start the blitz, as we roll up to launch.”

It was, however, the spate of emails scattered throughout the 119 pages of documents referencing the Shared Learning Collaborative (SLC), a project of the Gates Foundation that provided the link between the department and Murdoch and his News Corp. operation. Those emails confirmed the department’s intent to enter sensitive student and teacher information into a massive electronic data bank being built by Wireless Generation, a subsidiary of News Corp.

“Over the next few months, the Gates Foundation plans to turn over all this personal data to another, as yet unnamed corporation, headed by Iwan Streichenberger, former marketing director of a(n) (Atlanta) company called Promethean that sells whiteboard,” according to a news release by Class Size Matters, http://www.classsizematters.org/ a non-profit organization that advocates for class size reduction of New York City’s public schools.

It was that revelation that should cause Louisiana citizens in general and parents of school children in particular the most cause for alarm.

Class Size Matters in January of 2013 released a copy of a 68-page contract between SLC and the New York State Educational Department which said in part that there would be no guarantee that data would not be susceptible to intrusion or hacking, though “reasonable and appropriate measures” would be taken to protect information.

Remember that “reasonable and appropriate measures” claim. It comes into play later.

The Gates contract also allows for the unrestricted subcontracting of duties and obligations covered under the agreement.

Remembers Gates as well; it, too, becomes important momentarily.

Fast forward to March of this year.

“The Louisiana Department of Education, in partnership with 15 other states, conducted the first phase of the PARCC Field Test March 24-April 11,” came the boast from DOE.

“More than 24,000 students in grades 3-8 successfully completed the Field Test: 24,415 students across 76 Local Education Agencies (LEA) participated in the Field Test, many of whom practiced for the Field Test’s look and feel by using the tutorial and sample test questions published by the Department,” DOE said. “All students who participated in the Field Test had the opportunity to experience the new technology features of the assessment, and many reported that the new features were engaging and easy to use, which enabled them to more easily complete the assessment.”

But a report in the Arizona Daily Independent on Monday by Brad McQueen, a former Common Core insider and currently a public school teacher in Tucson and author of The Cult of Common Core, offered some disturbing revelations about the field test.

http://www.arizonadailyindependent.com/2014/06/16/parcc-field-tests-had-major-data-security-flaws-and-of-course-they-knew-all-about-it/

McQueen said PARCC, the Common Core testing company, “knew it had major data security flaws in its computer-based field tests, administered by Pearson Testing this past spring…but they went ahead with the field test anyway.”

He cited an email from PARCC to all PARCC states on March 12 that said:

“The down time between when students are exited from the secure test mode in TestNav (the online test platform) and when the proctor resumes the testing leaves a gap that is a security risk.”

http://www.arizonadailyindependent.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/2Internet-Explorer-Accelerator-Issue-with-TestNav-8.pdf

There were also flaws external to the PARCC computerized test that posed additional threats to student data security when using certain versions of Internet Explorer with the Accelerator feature, he wrote:

Common applications like anti-virus updating, screensavers, pop-up blockers, or the computers accessing other programs had the capacity to exit the student from the test, thereby exposing them to data security risks until they were manually logged back onto the test by the test administrator.

“Sounds like there were loads of ways for your kids’ data security to be breached during the PARCC field test, huh?” he wrote. But PARCC, Pearson and state departments of education, instead of delaying or cancelling the field tests in order to correct the flaws, stayed on schedule, keeping the security flaws a secret.

In other words, choosing profits over security.

DOE currently has a $1.2 million contract with Pearson that calls for the company to “provide authorized testing center licensure for each public high school in (the) state of Louisiana that is part of the statewide Microsoft IT Academy.”

Now, let’s return to Gates and those “reasonable and appropriate measures.”

Glenn Greenwald, a reporter for London’s Guardian newspaper, has a new book entitled No Place to Hide. The book is about Edward Snowden and his leak to Greenwald about the National Security Agency’s widespread, almost universal, indiscriminate spying on Americans as well as foreigners whether or not they posed a threat to U.S. security.

CLICK ON IMAGE

Among those thousands upon thousands of pages of leaked documents were several emails that revealed Microsoft’s complicity in the NSA’s hacking into our telephone, email and other electronic communications.

In late 2011, Microsoft purchased Skype, the internet-based telephone and chat service, assuring us at the time that “Skype is committed to respecting your privacy and the confidentiality of your personal data, traffic, and communications content.”

The perception, however, was far different than the reality; NSA, it turned out, was given carte blanche access to Skype data as an NSA email proudly proclaimed on March 4, 2013:

“SSO (Special Source Operations, a division of the NSA) expects to receive buddy lists, credit card info, call data records, user account info, and other material.”

Another Snowden-leaked NSA email, dated Dec. 26, 2012, said, in part:

“MS (Microsoft), working with the FBI, developed a surveillance capability to deal with the new SSL (one of the most common Internet cryptographic protocols designed to protect hacking). These solutions were successfully tested and went live 12 Dec. 2012.”

Still another document, Greenwald wrote, “describes further collaboration between Microsoft and the FBI, as that agency also sought to ensure that new Outlook features did not interfere with its surveillance habits. ‘The FBI Data Intercept Technology Unit (DITU—just the name sounds intimidating and ominous) team is working with Microsoft to understand an additional feature in Outlook.com which allows users to create email aliases, which may affect our tasking process…There are compartmented and other activities underway to mitigate these problems.’”

If that is not sufficiently chilling to cast extreme doubt on data sharing, PARCC, and any other such proposals being put forward by Microsoft, InBloom, former New York City School Chancellor Joel Klein, News Corp. and any other individual or entity that wishes to profiteer off public education, then you are part of the problem.

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Abandoned gas well equipment on private property near Ruston.

If there was still any lingering doubt after the passage of SB 469 that Gov. Bobby Jindal and the Louisiana Legislature are in an unholy alliance to give big oil carte blanche to rape the landscape while pillaging the state’s resources, that doubt should be erased with the release Monday of a state audit of the Office of Conservation, Louisiana Department of Natural Resources.

The audit report, released by Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera, reveals that:

  • Current Office of Conservation regulations, unlike other states, do not require that all oil and gas drilling operators provide financial security on their wells;
  • Financial security amounts outlined in agency regulations are insufficient to cover the cost of plugging most wells;
  • The office did not inspect 53 percent of oil and gas wells in accordance with timeframes established by the commission over a six-year period and did not inspect 25 percent at all;
  • The office has failed to develop an effective enforcement process to “sufficiently and consistently” address noncompliance which might deter operators from committing subsequent violations;
  • Violations were not identified or addressed in a timely manner when identified nor did it conduct re-inspections to determine if fines were in order;
  • Approximately $471,000 in penalties were not assessed in fiscal years 2011 and 2012;
  • Current procedures do not effectively identify inactive wells and because operators are not required to report actual production by well, individual well production amounts cannot be verified;
  • The Office of Conservation did not consistently ensure that inactive wells were plugged within 90 days as required by state regulations.
  • During fiscal year 2008 through 2013, the office did not issue compliance orders to plug 416 (86 percent) of 482 wells designated as having no future utility;
  • Because of insufficient regulations, 5,239 of 11,269 wells (46.5 percent) were found to be inactive for more than 10 years and are at risk of becoming orphaned.

Orphan wells are abandoned oil and gas wells for which no responsible operator can be located or such operator has failed to maintain the well site in accordance with state regulations, the audit report said.

The laissez-faire attitude of enforcement on the part of the state has given rise to ever-growing numbers of abandoned wells throughout Louisiana and the Office of Conservation has neglected to conduct required inspections of orphaned wells. Of 270 wells orphaned from September 2010 to April 2013, the office failed to inspect 124 (46 percent) of those within the required 90 days and 87 of those 124 (70 percent) were not inspected at all as of July 2013. “Conducting inspections is important to ensure that wells are appropriately prioritized for plugging and that conditions at the sell site do not pose a risk to the environment,” the audit report said.

The Office of Conservation has recovered only $3.6 million from 13 previous operators who abandoned wells since 1993, the audit said. Lax enforcement of standards for which penalties for violations can run as high as $5,000 per day resulted in the collection of only about $900,000 for the six-year period of 2008 through 2013.

This lack of enforcement has had two results: millions of dollars are left uncollected for violations and operators are reluctant to take corrective measures even when cited. Accordingly, Office of Conservation enforcement does not deter operators from experiencing subsequent violations, the report said.

In fact, the audit report said, the Office of Conservation cannot even identify the actual number or type of violations cited on inspections.

Meanwhile, as of July 2013, there are 2,846 unplugged orphaned wills scattered across the state with the heaviest concentration in northwest Louisiana and along the Louisiana coast.

In management’s response to the audit, Commissioner of Conservation James Welsh said his office “takes the job of regulating the oil and gas industry seriously” and that his office is already in the process of addressing several of the concerns listed in the report.

“Conservation staff and management have been diligent in working to resolve these issues and will continue seeking a means to do so that does not create unintended consequences such as sharply increasing the rate of wells having to be declared orphaned,” he said.

Welsh, in his eight-page management response, agreed with all 21 recommendations of the audit report.

But with the honeymoon between the administration and big oil rolling blissfully along, it is doubtful that things will really change. Why should they?

On the one hand, operators have no incentive to clean up after themselves because of the practice by the Office of Conservation of winking and looking the other way when operators walk away from wells. There are few inspections and even fewer violations, and compliance orders are practically non-existent, so why bother?

On the other hand, just in case some rogue state agency like the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E) decides to take it upon itself to seek redress from 97 oil, gas and pipeline companies for the carnage they have wreaked on our coastal waters, all they have to do is throw money at the legislators and Gov. Bobby Jindal to be sure that such efforts are thwarted before they get out of the starting gate.

Altogether, the 144 current legislators and Jindal have raked in about $6 million in campaign contributions from big oil.

Yes, that’s a chunk of change but for the oil companies—ExxonMobil’s 2013 fourth quarter earnings (net profit) were $8.35 billion (That’s just three months)—it’s chump change.

Had that lawsuit by SLFPA-E been allowed to go forward, God forbid, even if the oil companies prevailed, they would have spent in legal fees alone far in more than the $6 million that they invested in those campaign contributions as a hedge against such an inconvenience.

Had they lost the lawsuit, however, the cost would have been in the billions of dollars, so what’s $6 million among friends? A mere pittance.

So now the legislators and Jindal can continue to accept big oil’s money, take smug satisfaction in their illegitimate marriage for the welfare of their benefactors and slap each other on the back for their brilliant legislative maneuvers. The oil companies now have a free pass to continue to destroy the Louisiana marshes and landscape and everyone, as my grandfather used to say, is happy as a dead pig in the sunshine. Everyone, that is, except the losers.

The losers?

Oh, that’s the citizens of Louisiana but who gives a crap about them?

The next election is more than a year away and their memories are so short.

 

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