[StBernard] The Word from Washington - Meeting the Road Home Shortfall and Expanding OCS Drilling in the Gulf

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Wed Jun 27 20:51:45 EDT 2007

Dear Westley,

Hello to all my friends in south Louisiana. I hope this newsletter finds
you and your family happy and healthy.

The Road Home Shortfall: House Leadership meets with Governor Blanco

Recently Louisiana has come across another bump on the road to our recovery
from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Because more Louisianians are qualifying
for the Road Home rebuilding program than was expected and their award
grants are bigger than was anticipated, the program could be facing a
multi-billion dollar shortfall. While I am pleased so many people are
finally getting the money they need to rebuild their homes, I also share the
concerns of many people in south Louisiana who fear the money might run out
before every check is cut. Regardless of what caused this shortfall, I
believe we need to work together immediately to solve the problem.

As a first step toward filling the Road Home shortfall, I asked for a
meeting in Washington between Governor Kathleen Blanco and members of the
leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives. Last week, we all met for
over an hour and discussed the anticipated Road Home shortfall and how
Congress and Louisiana can work together to make sure the program is fully
funded. We also discussed the many other challenges Louisiana is still
facing in our efforts to fully recover from Katrina and Rita.

This meeting was a major step forward in finding a solution to the Road Home
shortfall. Governor Blanco and members of the Louisiana Recovery Authority
fully briefed Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and
Majority Whip James Clyburn on the Road Home's funding needs and asked for
their support in meeting these needs.

In return, the members of the leadership all reiterated their commitment to
Louisiana's full recovery and promised to continue working with the state to
remedy Louisiana's housing crisis. Given their strong track record over the
past six months with supporting Katrina and Rita recovery, I am confidant
they will stand up for us once again and work with the state to make the
Road Home program solvent. The meeting made clear that we all share the
same goal: making sure every Louisianian who wants to return home and
rebuild is able to.

I am grateful to my leadership for making Louisiana's recovery a top
priority this Congress. In just six short months, they have passed a flurry
of legislation to help us rebuild, including a waiver of the requirement
that local governments put up 10% of the cost of rebuilding projects, a huge
financial burden that was strangling our recovery. They have also provided
an additional $6.4 billion for levee building, direct relief for fishermen
and shrimpers, assistance for schools to rebuild and hire and retain more
teachers, and other important needs. Their quick action and continuous
support is greatly appreciated by all of us involved in rebuilding our
communities in Louisiana and along the Gulf Coast.

Restoring Louisiana's Coast

When I travel across south Louisiana, I see with my own eyes how our rich
marshes and wetlands are disappearing. Louisiana loses a football
field-sized piece of land to the sea every 35 minutes. During Hurricanes
Katrina and Rita, we lost over 200 square miles of coastline. Our state is
literally washing away into the Gulf of Mexico. We must do all that we can
to protect our coastal marshes, estuaries, and barrier islands before it is
too late.

Last week, I was proud to cosponsor the National Environment and Energy
Development Act or NEED act, which would remove the ban on drilling for
natural gas in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). Removing the ban on this
sort of drilling would create a huge influx of revenue for the state to use
on environmental protection programs.

In September of 2006, Louisianians overwhelmingly decided to dedicate 100%
of OCS revenue to coastal protection and restoration. Royalties from
drilling on the outer continental shelf are essential for restoring and
rebuilding our barrier islands and coastal wetlands that weaken deadly storm
surges and protect our people and communities. I will keep you posted on
the progress of the NEED Act, and any other legislation that will help fund
coastal restoration in south Louisiana.

In closing, let me say again that serving as your representative in Congress
is a great privilege, and I will keep fighting every day for south
Louisiana's needs. Please don't hesitate to call my office in Washington,
or one of my four offices in Louisiana, if there is anything I can help you
with or if you want to share your opinion on upcoming issues in Congress. I
take your viewpoints very seriously and look forward to hearing from you.

Charlie Melancon
U.S. Representative, Third Congressional District of Louisiana

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