Week in Review, June 14-18: New S&WB Power Plant, Judge Blocks Oil Lease Ban

Towing Oil Rig Offshore Louisiana
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NEW ORLEANS – Here, from staff and wire reports, are the week’s top business stories:

The City of New Orleans announced a plan to replace outdated steam-powered turbines as the primary source of power at Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans pumping stations. Instead, Entergy New Orleans will build a new power plant at the S&WB’s Carrollton Plant and begin charging the the utility for the service. The new substation will provide power to the citywide pumping system. The roughly $74 million project, which has been discussed for years, will provide a new substation, frequency changers and power integration that the S&WB hopes will provide increased and consistent power reliability, said a city spokesperson in a press release. During recent extreme weather events, the aging S&WB infrastructure has struggled to keep water out of many neighborhoods. The utility’s century-old, steam-powered turbines have a history of failure and several of them have been offline for years. The City said funding sources for the new project include $20 million from city bonds, another $20 million from the State of Louisiana, and $35 million from Entergy. …

The AP reports that the Biden administration’s suspension of new oil and gas leases on federal land and water was blocked Tuesday by a federal judge in Louisiana who ordered that plans continue for lease sales that were delayed for the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska waters “and all eligible onshore properties.” The decision is a blow to Democratic President Joe Biden’s efforts to rapidly transition the nation away from fossil fuels and thereby stave off the worst effects of climate change, including catastrophic droughts, floods and wildfires. U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty’s ruling came in a lawsuit filed in March by Louisiana Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry and officials in 12 other states. Doughty said his ruling applies nationwide. It grants a preliminary injunction — technically a halt to the suspension pending further arguments on the merits of the case. “The omission of any rational explanation in cancelling the lease sales, and in enacting the Pause, results in this Court ruling that Plaintiff States also have a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of this claim,” he wrote. …

Although the project has been public knowledge for months, retail giant Amazon has officially announced it is building a robot-powered fulfillment center in Baton Rouge. The facility will combine contemporary robotics technology, inventory and shipping operations in a multi-level building with an 820,000-square-foot foundation. Louisiana economic development officials say the $200 million project on the former site of Cortana Mall will create more than 1,000 jobs. Starting pay will be $15 per hour with comprehensive benefits. It’s estimated that the center will also create 800 construction jobs and an additional 1,139 new indirect jobs. Amazon said employees will “pick, pack and ship smaller customer orders, such as books, toys, electronics and other household items alongside the latest in robotics technology.” “Louisiana has a long and storied history as a leading state for the shipping and transport of goods,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards in a press release. “Today’s announcement by Amazon reveals a new chapter in that history, as Baton Rouge will now be home to a state-of-the-art Amazon Robotics Fulfillment Center. I am proud to welcome this new investment to Louisiana’s Capital Region, and I thank Amazon for its continued investment in our great state – the third such investment in seven months. The new jobs and opportunities created by this project will be a tremendous value to Baton Rouge and the entire state.” …

Also from the AP: Gov. John Bel Edwards has agreed to turn off federal pandemic unemployment payments at the end of July in exchange for a long-term, modest boost to Louisiana’s jobless benefits, announcing Wednesday that he’s signed a bill that makes the trade. Republican state lawmakers and business organizations agreed to support a $28 increase in Louisiana’s maximum weekly unemployment benefits — increasing the payment to a maximum of $275 a week — starting in January. But they added a provision into the legislation that only allowed the benefit hike to take effect if the Democratic governor ended the $300 supplemental federal pandemic unemployment benefit by July 31, weeks earlier than required. Edwards took the deal. He issued the notification in a long list of bill signings released by his office Wednesday, with no comment on his decision. With his signature on the legislation, Edwards becomes one of the first Democratic governors to announce he’ll end the pandemic relief aid weeks ahead of its expiration. …

The U.S. Senate passed a bill on Tuesday that would make Juneteenth a federal holiday in the United States. Yesterday, President Biden signed the bill into law. On the same day, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell officially added Juneteenth to the City employees’ holiday calendar, starting with observance of the holiday on Friday, June 18. The New Orleans City Council approved the move during its regular meeting. “Last year I was proud to proclaim the 19th day of June as Juneteenth in the City of New Orleans, which traces its history of slavery to the early 18th century – before it even became a part of the United States. We recognize the humanity of our enslaved African ancestors who laid the foundation for our city’s unique culture, and seek to help memorialize their suffering and survival in a more intentional way. We hope this will help our people take this time to reflect on our history as we continue to move this city forward,” said Cantrell in a release. …

The AP said Louisiana will offer residents who have gotten vaccinated against COVID-19 a chance to win a share of $2.3 million in cash prizes and college scholarships, joining the ranks of states hoping financial incentives will persuade those reluctant to get the shots to change their minds. The top winner could take home $1 million, under the lottery plans announced Thursday by Gov. John Bel Edwards. Drawings will take place over five weeks, starting July 14. The state will give away nine $100,000 scholarships to winners ages 12 to 17 who can prove they’ve received at least one coronavirus vaccine shot. Four $100,000 cash prizes and one $1 million award will be handed out to winners age 18 and older. Registration for the federally financed drawings begins Monday at noon and is restricted to Louisiana residents. …

Conveyance systems manufacturer Intralox announced it will add 40 new jobs at its global headquarters in Harahan and 40 new jobs at its Hammond facility. The 80 total direct jobs will receive benefits and result in a payroll expansion of $3.8 million, the company said. Louisiana economic development officials estimate that the growth will result in 110 new indirect jobs. Hiring for the new jobs at the Intralox facility in Harahan is underway. Hiring for the new jobs in Hammond will start in the next year. Intralox is a division of Laitram, which employs more than 3,000 people globally and whose other divisions include Lapeyre Stair, Laitram Machinery and Laitram Machine Shop. Intralox operates assembly and distribution centers in Australia, Brazil, China, India, Japan, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom. With more than 1,500 patents in force around the world, the company’s portfolio of technologies and services “enhances food safety, powers e-commerce, and solves challenges for industries ranging from food processing to industrial manufacturing to logistics and material handling,” according to a press release. …

Loyola University New Orleans hosted a groundbreaking ceremony today to celebrate the start of work on a new chapel and community gathering space named in honor of former Saints owner Tom Benson. The new building will be the “sacramental and liturgical center of Catholic life for the Loyola community, a spiritual home at the heart of campus that is open and welcoming to all,” a school spokesperson said in a press release. The $6 million project, funded entirely by donors, was launched with a lead gift of $4.8 million from the Gayle and Tom Benson Charitable Foundation. “The Gayle and Tom Benson Jesuit Center will place our Catholic identity at the center of campus and of campus life,” said University President Tania Tetlow in a release. “The Center will hold a new Chapel of St. Ignatius, where I have gone to church since I was six years old. It will also house spaces where students can come together across faith traditions. We hope it will be the most beautiful and welcoming place on campus.” …

Paulo Goes, dean and Halle Chair in Leadership at the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management, has been named dean of Tulane University’s A.B. Freeman School of Business, effective August 23, 2021. “The ability to attract leading scholars and administrators such as Dean Goes is a testament to the Freeman School’s growing stature and national reputation and sets it on an exciting trajectory for the future,” Tulane President Michael A. Fitts and Provost Robin Forman wrote in a university-wide message announcing the appointment. “As a preeminent scholar, professor, author, researcher and administrator, Paulo will be a perfect fit for our school.” As dean of Eller College, Goes built nationally recognized interdisciplinary programs in entrepreneurship and innovation, digital transformation economics and business while prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. He implemented a strategic plan for Eller and oversaw incredible growth of its online graduate programs in management information systems, cybersecurity, healthcare management and accounting. …

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