An official of the Trump administration, which last week proposed a budget that would cut $420 million from Louisiana's coastal protection program over the next three years, has acknowledged the "negative impacts" that coastal loss has on local and national resources.
In a May 25 letter, Mary B. Neumayr, chief of staff of President Donald Trump's Council on Environmental Quality, wrote to Gov. John Bel Edwards to reassure him that federal officials are working to create an efficient permit review process for coastal projects.
Gov. John Bel Edwards has declared a state of emergency for Louisiana's coast, saying he hop…
Federal permitting has become a major headache for several projects, notably the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion and four other key initiatives that state officials hoped the Trump administration would prioritize as part of an executive order on infrastructure projects.
An official from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is shepherding the Barataria project through the various agencies that must sign off on it, has estimated that needed permits may not be approved until 2022, a date state officials have called unacceptable.
In her letter, Neumayr thanked the governor for providing a copy of his April 18 declaration of a state of emergency regarding the coast and assured him that the gravity of the situation is not lost on the administration.
"We appreciate the significance of Louisiana's coastal area for energy production, fisheries, recreation, and other resources," she wrote. "We also recognize that ongoing land loss in Louisiana negatively impacts these valuable resources."
In a Baton Rouge board room Wednesday morning, state officials were considering a 50-year pl…
She noted that the Mid-Barataria project has been added to the so-called permitting dashboard, which, theoretically, should help speed it up.
"We have been working closely with federal agencies and the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council to identify ways to increase the efficiency of the environmental review and authorization process" for the project, she said.
In regard to the Mid-Barataria and the four other projects as a group, she also said that the council is working to "align various permitting and infrastructure initiatives" and that as that process progresses, the council should be able to provide more specific reaction to Edwards' request to prioritize the projects under the terms of an executive order.
Neumayr's letter made no mention of the administration's budget proposal, which proposed ending a revenue-sharing agreement by which Louisiana and three other Gulf of Mexico states receive a portion of the federal government's offshore oil royalties. That agreement is expected to bring Louisiana about $140 million per year over the next three years, money that is dedicated to coastal projects.
Several Louisiana members of Congress have vowed to fight that element of the Trump budget.