Louisiana News Briefs

By David Jacobs | The Center Square

ExxonMobil considering $240 million investment in Baton Rouge

ExxonMobil is considering building new projects worth a total of $240 million at its refinery complex in Baton Rouge, with a final decision expected next year, state and company officials announced Wednesday.

The potential investment is meant to improve processing capability, increase flexibility for meeting market demand, advance overall site competitiveness, and install technology for a voluntarily 10 percent reduction of volatile organic compound emissions. The projects would retain 1,300 existing jobs at the refinery, and ExxonMobil estimates the projects would support more than 600 construction jobs on-site over three years, officials said.

The company is expected to utilize the state’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program and the state-backed FastStart worker training program. The projects would generate approximately $5 million in sales tax revenue and more than $40 million in property tax revenue, the company says.

“This suite of projects positions our site for future investment at our refinery and chemical plants in Baton Rouge,” said Gloria Moncada, the refinery’s manager.

State education boards want to ‘blur the lines’ between high school, higher ed and workforce

The boards that oversee K-12 education and higher education are launching a pilot program meant to increase the number of high school graduates who earn an associate’s degree or participate in a high-demand apprenticeship program during high school.

Students on the “Fast Forward” pathway would spend grades 9 and 10 on their high school campus, followed by the opportunity to spend grades 11 and 12 on a postsecondary campus, on a high school postsecondary satellite campus, or fully immersed in a state-recognized pre-apprentice or apprentice program.

The Louisiana Department of Education plans to release a request for applications on Jan. 6 for planning grants of up to $50,000 that will be awarded to a lead regional secondary school system and its higher education partner in each of the eight regions of the state. LDOE and Regents will split the cost of the grants.

Only 159 out of 42,650 Louisiana graduates earned both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree upon graduation from high school last year, officials reported. Research shows dual enrollment expands opportunities for underachieving and underrepresented students, while career pathway students participating in dual enrollment were more likely to graduate from high school, transition to a four-year college and continue their postsecondary education, according to the Louisiana Board of Regents.

Insurance department: About half of hurricane complaints resolved

The Louisiana Department of Insurance has received more than 700 complaints related to hurricanes Laura, Delta and Zeta. Officials have resolved more than 450 of those grievances, recovering more than $11 million for consumers, the department says.

Louisiana was hit by two tropical storms and three hurricanes that collectively caused an estimated $14 billion in damage across the state. As of Nov. 20, 236,928 claims had been filed in all lines of insurance related to hurricanes Laura and Delta, LDI reports.

LDI re-vamped its complaint process by taking property, life and health insurance complaint-handling out of their respective departments and putting them into a new unit, the Office of Consumer Services, dedicated to investigating consumer grievances. For this year’s storm season, LDI assigned five of its 14 complaint examiners to a special “catastrophe team” dedicated to hurricane complaints, the department says.