Latest News

Louisiana Secures $73 Million for EV Charging Infrastructure

Date: September 22, 2022

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has approved the Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Deployment Plan and will allocate approximately $73 million in federal funding to Louisiana over the next five years, according to a news release.

This plan, which was submitted to the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program on August 1, outlines the intent to administer federal funds through a grant program currently under development. The grant program will fund up to 80% of EV charging infrastructure with a minimum 20% match by grant recipients.

“These funds will allow the state to move forward and provide additional fueling infrastructure to the ever-changing transportation industry,” said DOTD Secretary Shawn D. Wilson, Ph.D. “Louisiana’s EV charging network is relatively low compared to our neighboring states, and we must be able to accommodate the growing shift in the way people travel. Creating a more sustainable and cleaner environment is of the utmost importance, and one way of accommodating this is by having more charging stations and allowing them to be affordable to the everyday motorist.”

DOTD will begin accepting grant applications in early 2023 for recipients to own, install, and operate EV charging stations that meet federal requirements. Recipients are anticipated to be selected, and funds dispersed, by summer 2023. The department is planning future outreach activities and virtual meetings to solicit feedback. For additional information, contact DOTD-EVProgram@la.gov.


East Baton Rouge Utility Plan Would Improve Flood Resilience, Officials Say

Date: September 22, 2022

Leaders in East Baton Rouge Parish want to combine city and parish stormwater systems into a public utility district that would allow them to assess a new fee, which would help with planning for resiliency and flood protection measures, The Advocate reports.

The Metro Council was slated to consider an agreement between the city of Baton Rouge and East Baton Rouge Parish to create the utility in mid-September. Creating a fee under the utility district will require a separate vote, which would be held later in 2022, city-parish spokesman Mark Armstrong said.

“We need something to continue the progress and increase flood resiliency, decrease flood potential and protect our residents,” Armstrong was quoted. “Establishing a utility is something that needs to be done. That is how you adequately address your separate stormwater sewer system.”

The utility district will allow the city-parish to construct, improve, operate, and maintain the stormwater system, according to a council memo. Read more.


Transmission Project Aimed at Shoring Up Electric Reliability

Date: September 22, 2022

Entergy Louisiana recently began construction of a $100 million transmission project that aims to build resilience and increase the reliability of its electric grid in southwest Louisiana. The project will also increase capacity to hopefully attract new economic development projects in the region while benefitting existing customers, including those in industry.

The Mud Lake to Big Lake transmission project spans from an existing substation west of Mud Lake near the Calcasieu and Cameron parish line to a new substation being built in Lake Charles.

The project will take place in phases and is scheduled for completion next summer. Major components of the work include:

  • Construction of nearly 15 miles of (230kV and 69kV) transmission lines
  • Construction of a new substation, Big Lake substation
  • Upgrades at three existing substations, including Mud Lake substation
  • Installation of approximately 150 poles or structures
Portions of the new transmission line will be built to withstand winds up to 140 and 150 mph, with a crossing at Calcasieu River and Intracoastal Waterway being built to withstand winds of up to 175 mph, Entergy reports. Read more.

Louisiana to Receive $63M in Federal Grants for Infrastructure

Date: August 17, 2022

Governor John Bel Edwards and Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development Secretary Shawn D. Wilson, Ph.D., announced that five Louisiana applicants are set to receive a total of $63.1 million in federal Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grants from the US Department of Transportation. The RAISE grant program is the first discretionary funding program to accept applications as directed by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, according to a news release.

The RAISE grants will be allocated as follows:

  • $22,164,000: Roadway and intersection improvements on the healthcare corridor near the intersection of I-49 and I-20 in Shreveport (includes reconstructed roadways and transit bus pull-outs, bus rapid transit with electric bus technology, ADA improvements, traffic signal and emergency vehicle preemption improvements, pedestrian facilities including a pedestrian bridge, protected bicycle lanes, and street lighting).
     
  • $20,000,000: Right-of-way acquisition, design, and construction of the Baton Rouge Train Station and Gonzales Train Station along the planned Baton Rouge-New Orleans Inter-City Rail Service (including ADA accessible platforms and stations and supporting infrastructure).
     
  • $17,253,272: Rehabilitation of the Texas Street Business Corridor from the Highway 1 South Bypass to Washington Street in Natchitoches (includes rehabilitation of roads and drainage facilities, new pavement, new and widened sidewalks, walking paths, and dedicated bike and pedestrian lanes).
     
  • $2,626,679: Replacement of the existing closed, dilapidated Valentine Pontoon Bridge over Bayou Lafourche on LA 1 and LA 308 between Lockport and Larose with a more modern pontoon bridge.
     
  • $1,099,455: Replacement of a gravel roadway with a hard-surface roadway to the Pointe-a-la-Hache ferry facility (includes the addition of a new southbound left turn lane on LA 23, a northbound deceleration turn lane and acceleration lane, subsurface drainage improvements, and a parking area to accommodate commuters).

River Commission Inspection, Public Meetings Scheduled

Date: August 17, 2022

The Mississippi River Commission will conduct its annual low-water inspection trip on the Mississippi River, August 22 – 26, 2022. Four public meetings are scheduled aboard the Motor Vessel "Mississippi" in selected towns along the river. A meeting in Morgan City, Louisiana, will take place on Friday, August 26, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at the Port Commission Dock.

Commission members will meet with local partners, stakeholders and residents and hear their concerns, ideas, and issues. Interested parties are invited to present their views on matters affecting the water resources infrastructure needs in the valley, including flood control, the Mississippi River and Tributaries project, and other water resources challenges.

Additional meetings will be held in Tiptonville, Tennessee (Riverside Park) on August 22; in Memphis, Tennessee (Beale Street Landing) on August 23; and Vicksburg, Mississippi (City Front) on August 24.

Louisiana Legislation Update

Date: July 20, 2022

NSPE successfully worked with the Alliance for Responsible Professional Licensing to ensure that an occupational licensing bill (S.B. 483) would not negatively impact licensing for professional engineers and architects in Louisiana. The Society and ARPL believe that the legislation posed a significant erosion of public protection through licensure.

An article featured in the June issue of PE Matters failed to mention that actions were taken to ensure that licensed engineers and architects were exempt from the provisions of the legislation and incorrectly stated that the bill was referred to the governor’s office by the Senate.

An additional bill (H.B. 1062) was passed by the state legislature that ARPL believes contains a subtle threat to licensure. This bill allows private citizens to sue an occupational licensing board if they believe that licensing regulations are not the least restrictive as possible. The legislation becomes effective on August 1.

Louisiana PEs also gained a legislative win with passage of a bill (H.B. 305) to define the scope of practice for architects engaging in incidental engineering. PEs have been working with architects in the state for over eight years on this issue. After many meetings and restarts, they finally got it through.


Louisiana Climate Task Force Eyes Hydrogen Energy for Federal Dollars

Date: July 20, 2022

Eyeing billions in federal infrastructure dollars, Louisiana's Climate Initiatives Task Force is evaluating several ongoing projects including a transition to hydrogen energy and building electrical vehicle infrastructure. But the effort faces a significant obstacle to achieve its goal of net zero emissions by 2050, according to a New Orleans City Business article.

The task force has already begun to pick what its members call "low-hanging fruit" in the form of updating Louisiana's building efficiency standards. Thanks to the Louisiana Legislature's passage of Act 635 this year, a new one-time commission will review the latest international standards to propose amendments to state building codes that address energy efficiency.

Jacqueline Dadakis with the Louisiana State Uniform Construction Code Council said at a task force meeting Tuesday that the state consistently ranks worst in the nation on total energy costs for residential buildings.

According to the Environmental Energy and Study Institute, residential and commercial buildings are responsible for almost 40% of US carbon dioxide emissions through their manufacture and assembly as well as their use of electricity for lighting, heating, cooling and running appliances.

"I think we're looking at about a 35 to 40% improvement on future buildings," Dadakis said.


University Launches Smart Oilfield Concentration

Date: July 20, 2022

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette has launched a smart oilfield concentration for petroleum engineering majors with courses beginning in the fall. The concentration is designed to prepare students for jobs in an oil and gas industry that increasingly relies on evolving technology for efficient, safe, and environmentally sound exploration and production.

It is the only program of its kind in the country, Ahmed Khattab, dean of the College of Engineering, stated in a news release. The smart oilfield concentration will integrate the college's current petroleum engineering degree program’s sub-surface expertise with smart drilling, machine learning, and data analytics, he explained.

"Its addition is part of our comprehensive plan to address conventional and renewable energy by providing cutting-edge degree programs, minors and concentrations that augment our traditional energy base and meet industry and community needs," Khattab added.

The concentration features a blend of courses and labs that focus on coding, statistics, machine learning, automation, predictive capabilities, carbon capture, computational fluid dynamics, smart drilling, and the economic feasibility of exploration in specific locations.

Lawmakers Approve Bill to Fast-Track Licensing for Out-of-State Professionals

Date: June 16, 2022

A bill that would require occupational boards and commissions to fast-track the licensing of out-of-state licensees moving to Louisiana has been approved by the state Senate and House, and was sent to the governor’s desk for signature. This legislation will affect the professional engineer license.

The occupational licensing bill, Senate Bill 483, was sponsored by Senator Stewart Cathey Jr., who said the state needs to make it easier for professionals to move to and work in Louisiana.


Industrial Pumping Contaminating Drinking Water in Baton Rouge

Date: June 16, 2022

Baton Rouge’s drinking water source is under threat of contamination from saltwater due to over pumping by industrial operations, The Guardian reports. In Louisiana, industry uses more groundwater than in any other state except California, according to the US Geological Survey.

The city’s water is pulled from the Southern Hills aquifer. Companies like Exxon and Georgia Pacific pump billions of gallons of water from the aquifer each year, with no regulatory caps. Attempts at regulation have met heavy resistance, the article states.

The aquifer is the primary water source for 500,000 people in six parishes. Without intervention, it could become undrinkable, according to a Louisiana legislative auditor report.

Louisiana Voters Support Professional Licensing

Date: May 18, 2022

Louisiana citizens believe that professional licensing is essential to protecting the public, according to a survey released by the Alliance for Responsible Professional Licensing (ARPL), a coalition that includes NSPE. ARPL sought out the opinions of Louisiana voters because of recent legislative pushes to reduce or eliminate professional licensure.

The survey results reveal widespread public support for maintaining rigorous professional licensing standards for professions that have a clear impact on public health, safety, and welfare.

  • 91% of voters believe it is important that licensing systems keep consumers and the public safe by establishing standards for professions that impact public health and safety.
  • 91% of voters believe it is important that licensing systems ensure that competent, qualified professionals are servicing the public.
  • 90% of voters say licensing is important to them because it helps consumers identify qualified professionals and access information about the professionals they hire.
  • 89% of Louisiana voters would be 'concerned' if Louisiana eliminated minimum qualifications for engineers, architects, landscape architects, surveyors, and CPAs–including 77% of the public who would be 'very concerned' if such legislation passed.

System Restoration Bonds to Enable Faster Reconnection After Storms

Date: May 18, 2022

Entergy Louisiana will raise $3.1 billion in bonds to enable faster reconnection for customers after severe storms. The system restoration bonds will be secured by charges to ratepayers in the Louisiana Public Service Commission's jurisdiction, according to the Asset Securitization Report.

The funds will support certain system restoration costs related to damages caused by hurricanes Laura, Delta and Zeta in 2020, and Winter Storm Uri in 2021, according to Moody's Investors Service. Funds will also be used to establish a special Hurricane Ida escrow for storm damage, and re-establish a regular storm damage reserve escrow for the company's operations. More than 40,000 people lost power for days after Uri.


Louisiana Refineries Release Dangerous Levels of Benzene

Date: May 18, 2022

Four oil refineries in Louisiana, along with six others that have air pollution monitors in the US, were found to be releasing benzene at levels that could pose a long-term health threat to surrounding communities, according to industry data compiled by the Environmental Integrity Project.

Benzene, a gaseous compound that evaporates from gasoline and other petroleum products, is known to cause a variety of health problems that include anemia, nervous system damage, suppression of immune systems, and leukemia.

EPA adopted new federal regulations in 2012 that require petroleum refineries to monitor benzene concentrations along their fence lines and report the results to the government every three months. If the monitoring data identify annual average benzene concentrations above the "action level" after excluding background and offsite concentrations, refineries are required to conduct a root-cause analysis to identify and clean up the emission sources.

The EIP study found dangerously high levels of the gas had been detected at the fence lines of Louisiana refineries Valero St Charles Norco, Chalmette Refining, and Countrymark Refining and Logistics. Read more.

State’s Unreliable Electrical Grid Will be Evaluated by Engineering Firm

Date: April 14, 2022

Louisiana’s elected utility regulators want outside engineers to evaluate the state’s electrical infrastructure to explain why so many wires and poles come down after storms, causing outages. The state’s annual average outage durations are nearly twice the US average, according to The Advocate.

Even taking major storms into consideration, Louisiana is 47th in the nation in grid reliability, said Craig Greene, R-Baton Rouge, one of the five regulators on the Public Service Commission. The regulators plan to hire an engineering firm next month to draw up a statewide resiliency plan.


Chemical Manufacturing Expected To Have a Great Year in Louisiana

Date: April 14, 2022

Industry leaders say the outlook for chemical manufacturing in Louisiana is the best they have seen in years, according to the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report.

Low natural gas prices and rising demand for vehicles and homes contributed to that confidence. In addition, they feel Louisiana is well-positioned for the transition to a lower-carbon, more sustainable future, according to participants in a webinar hosted by 10/12 Industry Report and Business Report. However, concerns about inflation and companies’ supply chains were also voiced.

The more optimistic participants emphasized that Louisiana’s geology is conducive to carbon capture and sequestration projects, and said the industry’s role in the energy transition could be important for attracting and retaining talent.

Electrical Modernization Increases Power Reliability in Northern Louisiana

Date: March 14, 2022

Electric utility company Entergy Louisiana recently completed a $100 million project across Ouachita Parish that positioned the region for economic growth and increased the resilience and reliability of the electric system in north Louisiana. New transmission equipment was installed, and portions of the local, existing transmission system were upgraded. This work made the electric system in the area more interconnected with higher capacity, which will help the company deliver power now and into the future by way of clean generating resources such as solar.

While the project enhanced service reliability, it should also help import lower cost power that would keep the region attractive to existing or new customers, including those turning to electrification to reach sustainability goals, the company stated. Find out more.


South Louisiana the US Area Most Vulnerable to Climate Change

Date: March 14, 2022

A recent United Nations report on climate change says increasingly volatile weather events make the future of South Louisiana uncertain. Rising seas and the sinking of the Mississippi River due to human interventions make South Louisiana the most vulnerable place to climate change in the US, according to a businessreport.com article.

A Louisiana climatologist quoted in the piece agreed with the UN report and said that the loss of sediment from leveeing the river and saltwater intrusion caused by coastal oil and gas development are two major causes of the Mississippi sinking.

Online License Renewals and Certifications

Date: February 16, 2022

The Louisiana Professional Engineering and Surveying Board has opened the online license renewals and certifications site for licenses expiring on March 31, 2022.

PEs and EIs in active, inactive, or retired (normal) statuses may renew online here. Individuals that have not signed into their account since July 2021, will need to reset their password before renewing a license/certification. In addition, PE licensees renewing into active status must comply with the CPD requirements found here.


State and Federal Governments Move Toward Wind Energy Production in Gulf

Date: February 16, 2022

Within the first six weeks of 2022, both state and federal governments have taken steps toward offshore wind energy development off the coast of Louisiana. On February 1, the Climate Initiatives Task Force submitted the Louisiana Climate Action Plan to Governor Edwards, according to a JDSupra article.

The plan offers strategies and actions aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Louisiana. The development of offshore wind energy would aid in meeting the state’s goal to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.


PBF Energy Working Toward Renewable Production at Chalmette Refinery

Date: February 16, 2022

In its latest quarterly earnings report, PBF Energy said it is focused on building a renewable fuels production facility at its refinery in Chalmette refinery. The project incorporates existing company assets, including an idle hydrocracker, along with a newly constructed pre-treatment unit to establish a 20,000 barrel per day renewable diesel production facility.

This company has been working toward this endeavor for more than a year, focusing so far on completing engineering, permitting, securing longer-lead time equipment and commencing initial site preparations with the goal of being in production in the first half of 2023. Also, PBF says it is continuing discussions with potential strategic and financial partners.


Petroleum Engineering Degree Highly Popular in Louisiana

Date: February 16, 2022

According to data from the US Census Bureau, the most concentrated degree in Louisiana relative to the US as a whole is petroleum engineering. Adults in the state are about seven times more likely to have a degree in the field than the typical American adult, The Center Square reports. An estimated 0.41% of adults in the state have a petroleum engineering degree compared to 0.06% of adults nationwide.

Though demand for workers with this specific degree appears to be higher than average in the state, compensation is not necessarily higher than average. Adults with a petroleum engineering degree in Louisiana earn an average of $65,676 per year compared to the average income among all Americans with the degree of $84,648. It is important to note that average annual earnings include all adults with the degree, even those who are working part-time or not working.

Marsh Restoration Underway at Lake Borgne

Date: January 19, 2022

Construction has begun on the Lake Borgne Marsh Creation and Restoration Project, which has a $61 million budget. The first phase entails the construction of containment dikes. This is one part of the large-scale restoration strategy for the Pontchartrain Basin. Upon completion, the project will create and nourish approximately 2,770 acres of marsh on the southern shoreline of Lake Borgne near Shell Beach.

The project's construction budget is $61 million, according to the governor's office. Funding stemmed from the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and was allocated by the Natural Resource Damage Assessment program.


New Safety Rules in Place for Oil Field Tank Batteries

Date: January 19, 2022

The Louisiana Office of Conservation has set new rules for oil field tank batteries in an effort to save lives, after a young girl was killed by an exploding tank. The storage sites for oil wells are known to be recreational spots for young people, the New Orleans Injury Law News reports.

Fourteen-year-old Zalee Day-Smith died last February and since then, her parents have fought for stricter laws.
The Office put into place include several new requirements:

  1. Site operators must build fences at least four feet high and have a locked gate when the tank site is unattended.
  2. Tank entry points must remain securely sealed unless they're part of a pressure relief system.
  3. Operators must post warning signs that warn about the flammable contents on-site.
The new rules apply to sites within 500 feet of homes and highways, within 1,000 feet of a church or school, or within the limits of a city, town, or village. The state is also developing a list of all tank battery sites in Louisiana for the first time.

Export Oil Terminal Project Canceled

Date: December 15, 2021

A $2.5 billion oil export terminal and pipeline project in Plaquemines Parish was canceled by Tallgrass Energy Partners after it was opposed by residents of nearby Ironton and environmentalists. The opposition cited the fact that the facility would be built on top of a historic burial site of enslaved people, and asserted it would contribute to climate change and hamper local ecological efforts, according to Grist.

The proposed export terminal would have had the capacity to hold up to 20 million barrels of oil.


Infrastructure Law Funds Bridge and Road Repair, Transportation Upgrades

Date: December 15, 2021

The federal bipartisan infrastructure law will pay to repair and rebuild roads and bridges in Louisiana, with a focus on climate change mitigation, resilience, equity, and safety for all users, including cyclists and pedestrians. In Louisiana, there are 1,634 bridges and over 3,411 miles of highway in poor condition, according to the Department of Transportation. The state is expected to receive approximately $5.9 billion over five years in federal highway formula funding for highways and bridges.

In addition, $479 million over five years will be spent on improving public transportation in Louisiana. Funding will also cover modernization of freight rail, increased EV charging options, airport improvements, and other infrastructure updates.

Water System Overhaul Hits Snag with Red Tape

Date: November 17, 2021

Louisiana’s failing water system was allocated $300 million for repairs and maintenance by the state legislature this year, but the community-level application process was plagued by confusion and logistical problems ahead of the Nov. 1 deadline, the Illuminator reports.

Reportedly, 20% of the 1,287 water systems in the state aren’t up to code. Many communities began applications but didn’t complete them. Completed applications required an engineer-provided cost estimate, and some towns had trouble finding engineers, while others were confused about the application forms, State Rep. Jeremy LaCombe said. The initial application deadline was in September, but it was extended as states dealt with the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. At least 66 applications had been completed by the end of October.


Louisiana Plastics Plant Faces Delays, Scrutiny by Army Corps of Engineers

Date: November 17, 2021

A massive $9.4 billion plastics complex planned for St. James Parish faces a likely two-year delay as the project is scrutinized for possible environmental impacts. Plans for the project owned by plastics company Formosa were initially approved by the US Army Corps of Engineers, but the approval was later rescinded, and the Corps said it had made errors, the Advocate reports. Environmental groups filed a lawsuit saying the environmental study was insufficient; now the Army Corps will take time to research and draft an environmental impact statement.

Many applaud this close examination because the area along the Mississippi River already suffers from significant pollution. But advocates for the plant say that it will create 1,200 permanent jobs in the area and boost the local economy.

New Orleans Ordinance Designed to Prevent Negligence in Skyscraper Construction

Date: October 19, 2021

A new ordinance in New Orleans requires a third-party licensed structural engineer to review construction plans for buildings 75 feet or taller. The rule was created in response to the collapse of the Hard Rock Hotel during its construction two years ago, in which three workers were killed and dozens of others were injured.

According to the ordinance, the PE who does the inspection must not have a financial interest in the building, and must provide a report to the city’s department of safety and permits. Also, the ordinance defines “structure” as including the structural frame and the load-supporting parts of floors, roofs, walls, foundations, cladding, cladding framing, stairs, equipment supports, railings, and more.

After the collapse, investigators found that city inspectors falsified information. They also discovered the building plans were changed after construction began, including modifications involving steel support beams; these changes may have played a part in the collapse, WWLTV reports.


Huge Solar Farm Planned Near Lake Charles Draws Controversy

Date: October 19, 2021

A planned massive, one-million panel solar farm on a former rice farm is drawing ire from nearby residents who are concerned about wildlife and possible health effects. Some residents have filed a lawsuit against Aurora Solar, the company behind the proposed project. The subsidiary of Oregon-based Avangrid Renewables is part of the Spanish multinational firm Iberdrola, according to The Advocate.

The company is leasing 3,400 acres for the project—more than five square miles. Solar panels will be placed on more than two-thirds of the land. The farm will generate between 300 and 400 megawatts of electricity, or enough to power 30,000 homes in Louisiana, according to industry estimates. In comparison, Entergy’s recently opened Lake Charles Power Station has a 994-megawatt capacity, The Advocate reports.

Aurora plans to invest up to $325 million in the project and estimates it will create 300 to 500 temporary construction jobs. Such proposals are spurred by the low percentage of the state’s energy use that comes from renewable resources—just 3.3%, compared to the national average of 18.5%.

Researchers Apply Data from Ida to Strengthen Infrastructure

Date: September 10, 2021

A professor of civil and environmental engineering at Northeastern University is using wind, wave, and surging tide measurements in an effort to bolster levees, update urban planning and, hopefully, save lives. The professor, Qin Jim Chen, is part of a federally funded project called Nearshore Extreme Events Reconnaissance Association, worked with a team of researchers from Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge and the University of Florida. The team navigated tricky terrain to physically install the gauges only hours before the storm made landfall.

“Levees are often designed using model results of hypothetical hurricanes,” says Chen. “We want to see whether the existing theories we’ve used to build these levees are accurate. Using this new data, we can check our assumptions and hypotheses to improve these designs and better protect people and property.”


Anti-Licensing Forces Miss the Point

Date: September 10, 2021

Extreme anti-licensing bills have popped up in numerous states and are posing a threat to the rigorous and established professional standards followed by PEs, architects, and others who design and construct the built environment, according to an op-ed in The Hill.

Lawmakers calling for these extreme measures don’t differentiate between barbers and manicurists, for example, and PEs and architects, say Tom Smith, executive director of ASCE, and Michael Armstrong, CEO of NCARB. “In their absolutist free-market view, reflected in the language of their model legislation, a visit to a barbershop or beauty salon should be treated the same as designing a bridge or water treatment plant.”

The legislative proposals range from measures that would eliminate licensing entirely to so-called “Universal Licensing” bills that would require states to accept licenses from any state regardless of whether the out-of-state license had the same level of qualifications behind it.


Grid Experts Grapple with ‘Resilience’ in Ida’s Wake

Date: September 10, 2021

The widespread destruction left by Hurricane Ida after the storm plowed into Louisiana and headed up the East Coast made one thing clear: There’s more work to be done in building a resilient power grid, reports E&E News. But how might solutions differ from New Orleans to New York, especially as climate change scrambles conventional wisdom about when and where extreme weather strikes? “The nature of the risk has changed,” said Saurabh Amin, an associate professor with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Levee Project Breaks Ground

Date: August 11, 2021

After a more than 50 year wait, a massive levee project along the western shores of Lake Pontchartrain has broken ground, reports Engineering News-Record. The levee will stretch 18.5 miles from the Bonnet Carre Spillway to the Mississippi River Levee near Garyville and will cost $760 million. The project will be constructed by the US Army Corps of Engineers; once completed, the Pontchartrain Levee District will maintain and operate the levee system. The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority is the project’s nonfederal sponsor.

The project involves building a 15-ft levee in virgin swampland with poor soil conditions. “You’ve got to determine what is the best way to build an earthen levee in a swamp—a freshwater swamp at that,” said the executive director for the Pontchartrain Levee District. “So there were lots of investigations, lots of surveys that went into this.”


Solar Farm May Become State’s Largest

Date: August 11, 2021

Construction of a solar farm that would be the largest in the state and would sell power to the likes of eBay and McDonald’s is slated to begin construction in October and connect to the grid in June 2023, according to the Advocate. The project developer, Lightsource Renewable Energy Development LLC of San Francisco, says the facility in Pointe Coupee Parish will generate 345 megawatts. Lightsource is a subsidiary of BP.

Encouraged by a tax exemption, more than a dozen other solar projects are proposed in the state. The exemption would provide the projects up to 10 years of property tax breaks for land turned from agricultural use to industrial for a large-scale solar project.

LSU Prof Leads Groundwater Modeling Study

Date: July 21, 2021

An LSU professor of civil and environmental engineering will be leading the development of a regional-scale groundwater model across multiple states followed by a study of groundwater availability impacted by anthropogenic pumping, climate change, and droughts, according to the Times Picayune. LSU will be working on the project with Southern University, the University of Mississippi, and the University of Alabama; the goal is better water resource management for the Gulf region.

In the project’s second phase, the team will integrate the model with other water management strategies, such as alternative water sources from rivers, wastewater, and storm water, including social and economic analyses. The aim is to reduce groundwater pumping by using more surface water from the Mississippi River or reclaimed water.

In other education news: UL-Lafayette adds the state’s first bioengineering concentration for engineering majors, reports WGNO.


Construction Plans for Methanol Plant Restarted

Date: July 21, 2021

A Canadian company has restarted plans to build a methanol plan in Geismar in Ascension Parish, reports the Advocate. Originally, the plant was expected to cost $1.4 billion and produce 1.8 million tons of methanol, but due to global economic uncertainty, those plans were scaled back. After pausing the project for more than a year, Methanex Corp. plans to cut the project’s size by $200 million to $600 million. The company expects to begin manufacturing methanol from the plant—its third in Geismar—by the end of 2023 or early 2024.

Louisiana LNG Facilities Grow…But Questions of Risk are Raised

Date: June 10, 2021

Venture Global LNG is proposing four liquefied natural gas export terminals in south Louisiana and plans to capture greenhouse gases from at least two of them and inject the gasses into saline aquifers for permanent storage, reports the Advocate. The company may extend its carbon-capture plans to all four of the proposed terminals. One is under construction in coastal Cameron Parish, where another project is proposed, and two are proposed south of New Orleans.

While federal regulators approved the construction of export terminals along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts as fracking made the US a major natural gas producer, critics say industry safety calculations significantly understate the potential force of a specific type of accidental explosion, according to the Washington Post. The federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration told the Post it intends to draw up rules next year that would deal with the risk in question.

“Eventually, regulators and industry engineers came around to the understanding that these terminals do pose inherent new dangers, almost as an afterthought,” the article says. “But even to this day, federal regulators accept at face value the industry’s calculations regarding what engineers call a vapor cloud explosion.”


The Balancing Act of Louisiana’s Climate Goals

Date: June 10, 2021

Louisiana became the first Deep South state to sign on to an interstate climate compact to achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, writes Popular Science, but part of that agreement would involve cutting net emissions by a quarter in under five years. That means Louisiana will need to cut about 50 million metric tons of emissions—more than its entire transportation sector.

Louisiana is not like other states. While the industrial sector accounts for about 13% of emissions nationally, Louisiana industry accounts for two-thirds of its emissions. Adding to the challenge, the state hasn’t done a comprehensive inventory of its carbon emissions since 2010.

At the end of the day, the article says, “the state seems to be pursuing both green industry and oil.” However, “There are good reasons to think that Louisiana could become a hub for green jobs. The heavy engineering jobs of the oil and gas sector have similar skill sets to renewable energy and coastal restoration.”

Contract Awarded for LNG Terminal, Industry Faces Challenges

Date: May 17, 2021

A joint venture of KBR and Venture Global LNG has been awarded a contract to build a proposed $8.5 billion liquefied natural gas export terminal south of New Orleans, reports NOLA.com. The Plaquemines LNG project will cover a 630-acre site about 20 miles south of New Orleans. The project is expected to support up to 2,200 construction jobs and hire 250 workers at the terminal once completed.

Plaquemines LNG is the second of four liquefaction projects proposed by Venture Global, all in Louisiana, according to S&P Global. The first, Calcasieu Pass, is under construction and may begin operations as early as this fall. When completed, Calcasieu Pass will be the seventh major liquefaction facility in the US.

Although LNG has rebounded from the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, reports the Houston Chronicle, the industry, sparked by the fracking boom, is new for the Gulf Coast. “It remains to be seen if the LNG industry can balance long-term supply with demand. Analysts worry that if most of the planned projects — not only on the Gulf Coast but around the world — come online over the next four years, supply could outstrip demand.”


Remembering the I-10 Bridge

Date: May 17, 2021

The 70th anniversary of the Interstate 10-Calcasieu River bridge arrives on September 28, but its opening came sooner than planned, according to the American Press in Lake Charles. Turns out that state highway engineers determined that the bridge it was replacing was “in such condition that a possible failure may occur at any time” and the heavy traffic should be taken off it as soon as possible.

The article also tells the story behind the bridge’s name. During construction, the chief engineer of the highway department proposed a name at a Louisiana Engineering Society meeting. He suggested the Lafitte Bridge, after pirate and privateer Jean Lafitte. The chief engineer added that the handrailing of the bridge had been marked with the sign of the pirates — crossed pistols. The proposal didn’t catch on, however, and the bridge was officially named the Louisiana Memorial World War II Bridge in June 1951.

A proposal has been made to replace the 70-year-old bridge. Read the recommendations for a new six-lane bridge from the I-10 Bridge Task Force.

19th Century Orphanage Transformed into Boutique Hotel

Date: April 21, 2021

The transformation of a nearly 150-year-old former orphanage into a 74-room boutique hotel in the Lower Garden District of New Orleans was recently highlighted in ENR. The project involved The project involved converting five historically designated buildings into the $22.5-million Hotel St. Vincent, a 71,500-sq-ft luxury hotel with a newly constructed 6,000-sq-ft event space and private verandas for each room. A representative of the general contractor, Palmisano, said: “Historic, boutique hospitality projects are one of the most complex project types in the commercial design and construction industry,” Moldaner says. “The physical constraints and deteriorating conditions of a historic structure, combined with the goal of creating a one-off guest experience, creates an extraordinary level of collaboration across a large and diverse project team.”


Fossil Fuel Execs Try Out Solar

Date: April 21, 2021

A group of fossil fuel industry service executives has started a New Orleans renewable energy developer, reports Houma Today, as a way to hedge their bets in oil and gas. NuQuest Energy cofounder Kirk Barrell said that he sees a momentum shift and opportunity in renewable energy. Entergy, for example, plans to buy several hundred megawatts of renewable power from developers like NuQuest in the coming years. According to the article, NuQuest is close to sealing a deal for its first self-funded solar project. It would produced around 100 megawatts of electricity.

Corps Report Sets Stage for Historic Project

Date: March 18, 2021

The rebuild of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands took a step forward on March 5 with the release of an environmental impact report by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The upshot: The benefits of the proposed $1.4 billion project are well worth the risk, reports Engineering News-Record.

The project would be one of the largest environmental infrastructure projects in the nation’s history. “As a concept, it’s a game changer,” says Kristi Trail, professional engineer and executive director of the Pontchartrain Conservancy, a nonprofit that advocates for environmental sustainability through scientific research. “We see it as something that must move forward in order to change how things are going with our current land loss.”


Industry Overuse Puts Capital City Drinking Water At Risk

Date: March 18, 2021

Deep beneath Baton Rouge, the Southern Hills Aquifer System provides water to 650,000 people in six parishes. It also supplies hundreds of oil and gas plants, chemical manufacturers, and commercial support contractors. “But the aquifer is being depleted faster than it is being replenished, just as it is in at least four of Louisiana’s 11 major aquifers,” according to New Orleans Public Radio. Industries withdraw an average of more than 56 gallons of groundwater per person — more than anywhere else in the country. A state audit manager said, “Essentially, the capital area has not effectively regulated groundwater usage from this aquifer. The Southern Hills aquifer needs to be regulated, so it can continue to provide drinking water for the citizens for years to come.”


Advocacy for New Bridge Continues

Date: March 18, 2021

A new Mississippi River bridge has been called a unicorn, but the Advocate reports that the latest talks may lead to a different outcome. A new bridge could provide relief from the gridlock on the Interstate-10 bridge, which is crossed by about 150,000 cars and track daily. Big questions remain, however, about funding and the bridge location. An earlier attempt to build a bridge failed in 2011 after vocal opposition from parishes that stood to be affected.


Petroleum Engineering Enrollment Drops

Date: February 10, 2021

Enrollment numbers for petroleum engineering students at LSU and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette have been declining for five years, reports the Acadiana Advocate, due to the deterrent of persistently low oil and gas market prices. LSU and UL Lafayette offer the only petroleum engineering programs in the state. Here’s a look at the numbers:

  LSU    UL Lafayette
Fall 2015 801
Fall 2016 649 551
Fall 2017 478 391
Fall 2018 327 235
Fall 2019 197 163
Fall 2020 129

Among the areas of change raising questions about the discipline are the auto industry’s adoption of new energy sources and the possible deemphasis of fossil fuel by the Biden administration.


Audit: Louisiana needs to improve emissions enforcement

Date: February 10, 2021

State auditors are calling on the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality to do a better job of identifying industrial polluters that don’t properly report air emission violations and enforcing those violations more aggressively, reports the Associated Press. The new state audit “found the time it took for the state agency to issue enforcement actions after a known violation more than doubled between financial year 2015 and 2019, from nearly 10 months to nearly 20 months.” Further, the auditors wrote that the department “doesn’t adequately track the penalties it has assessed, whether the penalties were paid or which facilities fail to submit self-monitoring reports on emissions.”


Louisiana Job Opportunity

Date: February 10, 2021

Civil Engineer
Spackman Mossop Michaels

See other engineering job opportunities on the NSPE Job Board.

Army Taps LSU Coastal, Engineering Expertise to Improve Resilience

Date: January 27, 2021

LSU engineering and science experts will receive $9.3 million over four years from the US Army to help make military operations better prepared for and more resilient to climate-induced hazards. The university will focus on ecological, coastal and water resource computational modeling and engineering to improve the functionality and resilience of military installations and operations under present and future conditions. The research is part of a program among the US Army Engineer Research and Development Center’s Environmental Laboratory, LSU, and the University of Delaware. The funding is the largest grant to fund a single-team coastal science and engineering project at LSU.


Federal Funds Slated for Terrebonne Levee System

Date: January 27, 2021

For decades, local advocates have sought federal funds for the levee system that protects Terrebonne and part of Lafourche from Gulf storms. Now that wait is over, reports Houma Today. This year, the Morganza-to-the-Gulf hurricane-protection system is scheduled to receive about $12.5 million from the Army Corps of Engineers. The money will go toward raising much of the levee system to around 20 feet and building two massive floodgates in the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, one in Houma and another in Larose.


Corps Calls for Further Study of Dam

Date: December 16, 2020

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wants to take 3½ additional years and spend an extra $6 million to study the proposed Darlington Dry Dam and better assess the risk of catastrophic failure and its impact on minority communities and archaeological sites,” according to the Advocate. The proposed $1.3 billion dam would reduce flooding of the Amite River Basin, but the project comes with significant life and safety issues as well as environmental justice and archaeological concerns.


Members Contribute to Licensing Board

Date: December 16, 2020

NSPE member Linda Bergeron, P.E., of Des Allemands, has been named as a new board member of LAPELS. She is a senior process engineer at Occidental Chemical Corporation, and she is a Chemical PE Exam development volunteer with NCEES.

NSPE member Alan Krouse, P.E., has left the LAPELS board after completing his six-year term.


LNG Facility in Plaquemines Moves Forward

Date: December 16, 2020

KBR Inc. has won the engineering, procurement and construction contract as lead contractor for Phase 1 of the Plaquemines LNG export project under development by Venture Global LNG in Plaquemines Parish, according to the 10/12 Industry Report. The announcement comes as a surprise. Over the summer, KBR said it would leave the energy business to focus on its technology and government solutions segments. In June, Reuters reported, “If Venture Global goes forward with Plaquemines this year, it could be the only U.S. LNG project to enter construction in 2020 after most other developers delayed their projects as coronavirus lockdowns cut global demand for energy and caused gas prices in Europe and Asia to drop to record lows.”

Plastics and the Public Health, Safety, Welfare

Date: November 18, 2020

The Army Corps of Engineers said it intends to suspend a permit for the construction of a $9.4 billion plastics complex along the lower Mississippi River in St. James Parish, reports Pro Publica. “Last year, an analysis by ProPublica and The Times-Picayune and The Advocate, conducted with an expert in air modeling, estimated that in the community across the river from the plant, hundreds of residents will face double the toxic levels of cancer-causing chemicals than they currently do,” the article says. “One mile east in the predominantly Black community of St. James, those levels could more than triple.”

In a motion filed in federal court, the Corps it needed to reevaluate part of its analysis under the Clean Water Act. The act, according to the article, requires an analysis of all environmental impacts, including air pollution.


Offshore Wind Takes a Step Forward

Date: November 18, 2020

Governor Edwards recently presented his strategies for lowering greenhouse gas emissions, including offshore wind energy, reports WorkBoat.com. Edwards has asked the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for help setting up a task force that will coordinate commercial offshore wind leasing proposals for the federal waters off Louisiana’s coast. Several Louisiana companies have worked on the first commercial offshore wind farm in the U.S., built off Rhode Island.

Louisiana Lawmakers Propose National Disaster Safety Board

Date: October 28, 2020

Two Louisiana legislators have proposed a measure that would create an independent board that would recommend ways local governments could strengthen their resilience to severe weather events, according to Transportation Topics. Sen. Bill Cassidy and Rep. Garret Graves “The board would be modeled after the independent National Transportation Safety Board, which produces reports after investigating plane crashes, and major commercial highway and railroad accidents,” the article states. On October 9, Cassidy said, “Americans across the country from the Gulf Coast to California are dealing with the results of natural disasters. Another hurricane is zeroing in on Louisiana right now. By establishing a natural disaster safety board, lessons learned from past disasters save lives and perhaps even prevent future disasters.”

Interested in taking action on legislative issues of interest to professional engineers? Visit NSPE’s Advocacy Center.


Solar Grows in Baton Rouge Area

October 28, 2020

A new solar facility with nearly 200,000 panels on a former sugarcane field is now plugged into the capital area’s electrical grid, reports the Advocate. The nearly 600-acre facility near Port Allen is part of Entergy’s plan to deliver more renewable energy to customers. The solar panels, according to the article, “face the eastern sky in the morning and track the sun’s path as they rotate throughout the day, which allows them to capture 30% more energy than stationary panels.”

In other solar news, the West Side Journal reports that a San Francisco-based firm has plans to build a solar energy manufacturing facility in West Baton Rouge Parish. The firm has filed an advanced notice with Louisiana Economic Development to begin building in 2022 and complete the project in 2023.


We Want to Hear from You!

Date: October 28, 2020

Do you know of engineering news in Louisiana that would be great for this newsletter? Maybe it’s a project you or your firm is working on, or perhaps you read some interesting engineering news in your local newspaper. Or maybe you know of a fellow PE or student who deserves a little recognition. If so, we want to hear from you. Email your ideas to pemagazine@nspe.org.

Will Louisiana Act to Remove the PE Exemption?

The National Transportation Safety Board has identified Louisiana and 30 other states that currently do not require a licensed professional engineer on natural gas pipeline projects. The NTSB sent a letter to the governors of each of the states in the fall, urging them to end exemptions for gas pipeline operators and asking for an update within 90 days.

The NTSB issued an investigation report on the September 2018 Merrimack Valley gas pipeline explosions with two critical recommendations: first that all the states with license exemptions for public utilities eliminate the exemption, and second that a professional engineer be required to review and approve gas pipeline construction and maintenance documents.

When the NTSB began its investigation, staff reached out to NSPE seeking information about licensing exemptions. Through a series of conversations and emails, NSPE shared report data, information on the licensing process and requirements, and its position statement on licensing exemptions. As a result of conversations with NSPE and other organizations, the NTSB adopted a policy of addressing and eliminating engineering license exemptions within the gas pipeline industry.

NSPE’s national staff continues to be in conversation with the National Transportation Safety Board and state societies on this issue.


Baton Rouge Red-Light Camera Contract Raises Licensure Concerns

A case of potential unlicensed engineering practice and red-light camera installation strikes again—this time in Louisiana. Efforts to renew a Baton Rouge red-light camera operations contract has come with some controversy over a firm unlicensed to practice engineering in the state.

Vera Mobility, formerly known as American Traffic Solutions, operates 24 red-light cameras in 16 intersections in Baton Rouge. The city’s previous professional services contract with the firm specified that installation drawings be stamped by a civil engineer licensed in Louisiana according to an article published by The Advocate on November 19.

Louisiana state statute requires firms that practice engineering to be licensed in order to safeguard life, health and property, and to promote the public welfare. Vera Mobility isn’t licensed with the Louisiana Professional Engineering and Land Surveying Board.

The East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council voted to extend the firm’s contract until 2023 despite a pending lawsuit that seeks to take the red-light cameras out of operation, according to The Advocate.

The case is similar to one in which the North Carolina engineering licensing board concluded, after an investigation in 2018, that American Traffic Solutions Inc., violated the law when it installed red-light cameras and produced survey data without a license to practice in the state.

In August 2019, the Colorado State Board of Licensure for Architects, Professional Engineers, and Professional Land Surveyors issued a cease and desist order to Redlex Traffic Systems for practicing engineering without a license in the state. Redlex Traffic Systems provided professional services to the city and county of Denver in July 2008 in violation of state engineering law.


NTSB Report and NSPE's Action on this Issue

Recently, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) sent letters to the governors of 31 states named in its final report on the Merrimack Valley gas pipeline explosions, including Louisiana. The letter requests an end to the engineering license exemption for gas pipeline operators in these states, and asks for governors to provide an update to the NTSB with in 90 days.

When the NTSB began its investigation of the Merrimack Valley gas pipeline explosions, investigative staff reached out to NSPE seeking information about licensing exemptions. Through a series of conversations and emails, NSPE shared report data, information on the licensing process and requirements, and its Position Statement on licensing exemptions. Consequently, NSPE was successful in getting the NTSB to adopt a policy of addressing and eliminating engineering license exemptions within the gas pipeline industry.

NSPE’s national staff continues to be in conversation with NTSB staff, and will continue to share updates as they happen. We are happy to support state efforts at eliminating this exemption.

Read the full report from NTSB.

NTSB Report and Recommendations

Pipeline explosionA BURNED-OUT MASSACHUSETTS HOME AFTER THE GAS EXPLOSIONS
CREDIT: NTSB

NTSB has released an abstract of its forthcoming final report on the fatal Merrimack Valley pipeline explosion from September of last year. Final revisions are being made to the report, but in the report’s synopsis/executive summary, NTSB states that “requiring a licensed professional engineer to stamp plans would illustrate that the plans had been approved by an accredited professional with the requisite skills, knowledge, and experience to provide a comprehensive review.” Acknowledging the importance of the role of the PE in preventing an event like this from occurring, NTSB recommends the elimination of the licensing exemption on natural gas pipeline projects in the 31 states that have the exemption in place, including the state of Louisiana.

Read the synopsis of the report.