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Week in Review, March 1-5: Louisiana Industry Plays Defense



LOUISIANA– The Louisiana oil and gas and petrochemical industries had to play defense this week.

First, Attorney General Jeff Landry announced plans to publicly authorize a $100 million settlement with oil and gas company Freeport McMoRan Inc. A completed deal, negotiated by Baton Rouge attorney John Carmouche, would mean that parishes and the state will end their lawsuit against the company in return for money to spend on coastal restoration. The Carmouche law firm has accused Freeport and 41 other oil and gas companies of destroying coastal wetlands and marshes through their drilling and exploration activities. “Only politicians and lawyers have seen this supposed settlement,” said Marc Ehrhardt, the executive director of the Grow Louisiana Coalition. “It has been done in secret. Whenever a politician or lawyer says ‘Trust me. It’s good for you,’ it doesn’t seem to work out too well for the people. How is this secret settlement scheme any different?”

Meanwhile, United Nations human rights experts released a public statement this week raising concerns about further industrialization of the corridor along the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. “This form of environmental racism poses serious and disproportionate threats to the enjoyment of several human rights of its largely African American residents, including the right to equality and non-discrimination, the right to life, the right to health, right to an adequate standard of living and cultural rights,” the UN observers wrote in a March 3 communique. In response, Greg Bowser, president and CEO of the Louisiana Chemical Association, said “we have seen no science or evidence of a preconceived decision by manufacturers to place chemical plants in areas based on the racial demographics of the region. We do not know if this group found evidence of such actions, and if they did, the statement they released does not share that information with the general public.”

Vaccine Milestone

Louisiana reached a coronavirus vaccine milestone Monday, with more than 1 million shots administered at pharmacies, hospitals, clinics and other sites across the state in the 11 weeks since immunizations began. The latest data from the state health department shows more than 657,000 people — or 14% of the state’s population — have received at least their first dose of the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that have been available. More than 368,000 people have gotten both required doses.

Ochsner Commits $20M to Delgado Training Program

Ochsner Health and Delgado Community College have announced a new partnership to train the next generation of nurses and allied health professionals in Louisiana. The Ochsner Delgado School of Nursing and Allied Health hopes to meet critical workforce demands while providing opportunities for locals to thrive in high-wage careers. Ochsner is committing $20 million to expand Delgado’s nursing and allied health education through its Ochsner Scholars program, which was announced last year as part of Ochsner’s 10-year vision to build a healthier state.

Shaya’s Restaurant at Four Seasons to Be Called ‘Miss River’

The Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences New Orleans has released details about chef partner Alon Shaya’s “signature restaurant” scheduled to open later this year on the property. The restaurant, to be named Miss River, is Alon Shaya’s “love letter to Louisiana based on his experience of the local culture and cuisine in his nearly 20 years as a resident,” said a hotel spokesperson in a release. “This ingredient-driven restaurant will pay tribute to New Orleans grand dining, showcasing Shaya’s spirited take on beloved local dishes, while providing surprise and adding fun to the dining experience.” Announces Expansion

New Orleans-based tech company, which provides identity verification software and hardware, has announced a physical expansion of its New Orleans office and eight new hires. The company, led by CEO Denis Petrov and CTO Andrey Stanovnov, now employs roughly 70 people in New Orleans, Las Vegas, Seattle and Europe. “At a time when many are struggling as a result of the economic crisis brought on by the pandemic, we are grateful to have been able to quickly pivot, grow and help our customers meet the new challenges of the day with our cutting-edge contactless technologies,” said Petrov in a press release. “We’ve added highly recognized and respected talent to our team who are helping take our business to the next level.”

‘Better Bedder’ Inventors Score Big on Shark Tank

When Mandeville inventors Nita Gassen and Judy Schott pitched their bed sheet fastener, the Better Bedder, to the panel of investors on ABC’s business reality show Shark Tank last week, three of the “sharks” attempted to outbid each other for a stake in Gassen and Schott’s sheet fastener company. In the end, Lori Greiner, better known as the “Queen of QVC,” came in for the final “bite” at $150,000 for an 18% interest in the company. The budding entrepreneurs, who founded the company to make everyone’s bed-making chore “fast, easy and neat,” said they will use their company’s new celebrity-backed cash infusion for marketing to spread the word about the Better Bedder nationwide.