Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:


March 3

The Advocate on a scientific report studying whether chemical plant emissions caused cancers in Louisiana:

Cancer in all its manifestations is a deadly disease and rightly feared. While medical science has made great strides against it, fear of the disease continues.

But if the causes of cancer are becoming clearer with time, it remains difficult to justify criticisms of careful scientific studies that do not prove activists’ assertions about the impact of industrial emissions.

A new example: LSU found that its Louisiana Tumor Registry has accurately reported cancer cases around a chemical plant much-criticized by environmentalists. But the cautious statements of statisticians amount to a “not proven” verdict about whether the emissions caused cancers, or that the Denka plant’s production of chloroprene has caused elevated levels of cancer in St. John the Baptist Parish.

“This report in no way implies that there are no health effects from long-term exposure to chloroprene,” the report carefully notes. While the substance in sufficient doses over sufficient time may be cancer-causing, there is no evidence that there are specific cancers arising from the emissions from the plant.

What the tumor registry does show is that there aren’t more cancers in the general area of the plant than elsewhere.

Not-proven isn’t enough for activists.

All too often, the results of careful study are waved away by environmentalists and community groups angry at the all-too-visible smokestacks.

“They answered a question that I’m not sure anybody was asking,” sniffed Kimberly Terrell, director of community outreach for Tulane Environmental Law Clinic.

Lawyers who argue past the facts so blithely in a courtroom would be admonished by a judge. In the court of public opinion, though, there’s a guilty-until-proven-innocent character to these debates.

We commend the LSU School of Public Health for the searching study and careful conclusions. The tumor registry is the best data we’ve got. We want it to be as complete as possible.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says chloroprene causes cancers, in sufficient doses over sufficient time — the qualification that is too often overlooked — but industry spokesmen argue that the EPA conclusions are disputed by new research.

We don’t buy that industrial emissions are surely not causing health problems. That’s why we need environmental regulations. We want to see emissions reduced, even as the benefits of the petrochemical industry are reaped by parishes like St. John, in jobs and taxes.

It is common sense that people living near a smokestack might get more exposure, and that poor residents — maybe even without air-conditioning in Louisiana’s brutal summers — may be much more at risk.

Poverty is a cruel carcinogen in society. It’s probably worse than a dozen Denkas. Parsing out what’s caused a specific case of a specific cancer may be proven one day by science. But not yet.



March 2

The Advocate on the opportunity to lift some coronavirus restrictions in Louisiana:

Gov. John Bel Edwards gets his second shot of Pfizer vaccine this week.

But more important, the governor will have a chance to give Louisiana’s economy a shot in the arm by lifting some of the restrictions that have crimped commerce for a full year now.

It was a year ago that the pandemic assaulted Louisiana, and when the disease was at its most mysterious and threatening, we were an early hot spot. Thanks to the unfettered celebrations of Mardi Gras, Louisiana was once the national leader in the spread of the killer coronavirus.

It would have been unimaginable then that we would still be struggling to overcome the virus, but COVID-19 pretty much vanquished Mardi Gras 2021. First, they canceled the parades. Then, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell closed down the bars and Bourbon Street. Then a historic cold snap robbed the holiday of whatever joy was left.

Reporting this weekend in our pages by Jeff Adelson and Gordon Russell underscores the idea that the pandemic posed a genuine threat requiring unprecedented response.

Even with restrictions that would have been unthinkable just a year ago, the number of deaths in Louisiana climbed by 30%. That means about 13,000 more people passed away than in a normal year.

Much of that owed to COVID-19, but about 40% of the deaths have other causes: postponed medical care or overdoses or suicide or crime.

But now Louisiana is on the downhill side of the health crisis, and it’s time to pay more attention to the economic damage.

The economy has rebounded since the severe shutdowns of the spring of 2020, but not if you work in a bar or a restaurant or a hotel or an entertainment venue.

The governor’s critics like to claim that the economic damage was caused by the shutdowns he ordered. But the restrictions mostly followed advisories from the Trump administration.

Moreover, the real damage has been from the decline in tourism, one of Louisiana’s key industries. The drivers of tourism, like conventions and cruises, are not going to bounce back any time soon. And when they do, cruise passengers and conventioneers will be Googling to find infection rates before they book a flight or a hotel or a restaurant. That’s especially true for the lucrative medical conventions that fill the hotels of New Orleans. Doctors are not going to a venue where political leaders dismiss medical advice.

But now there is reason for optimism.

About 600,000 have been vaccinated, half of them twice, and the pace should be increasing.

Where we were once averaging 2,500 cases a day, we are now down to fewer than 1,000. Hospitalizations have fallen by two-thirds from their peak, and the rate of positive tests has dipped to about 5%.

We have been patient, but now it’s time for Louisiana to start getting back to business, and back to normal, or closer to it.



Feb. 16

The Morgan City Daily Review and Franklin Banner on the censure of U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy:

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy broke with the Republican party in voting with just six other members of his own party to convict President Trump saying, “I voted to convict President Trump because he is guilty.” Cassidy also said “I’m attempting to hold President Trump accountable — and that is the trust I have from the people that elected me, and I am very confident that as time passes, people will move to that position.”

We doubt that.

President Trump won Louisiana easily in both 2016 and 2020, and commands considerable influence over Louisiana Republicans. Since being re-elected, Cassidy has been more willing than any Louisiana Republican in Congress to break with the party line.

The Louisiana Republican Party on Feb. 13 censured Senator Cassidy, saying “We condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the vote today by Sen. Cassidy to convict former President Trump.”

Cassidy has lost whatever institutional support within the Louisiana Republican Party he might have had.

Cassidy was a Democrat for years before switching to the Republican Party. Maybe he should go back to the Liberal Democrat Party.

Cassidy was first elected to the Louisiana State Senate in 2006 as a Republican. He had previously been a Democrat, supporting Michael Dukakis for president 1988, donating to Senator Paul Tsongas’ 1992 presidential campaign, and to Louisiana Democrat Governor Kathleen Blanco in 2003 and 2004 and Senator Mary Landrieu in 2002.

Cassidy was re-elected in November for another six year term and will be 69 years old at the end of that term and may not seek another term. He has a large campaign war chest and if he does seek another term some believe, including the Senator himself, that his voters will forget his vote to convict President Trump. We doubt that.

We salute Senator John Kennedy for his vote to acquit President Trump.

We are profoundly disappointed in Cassidy’s betrayal of President Trump, the Republican Party and his constituents.

This vote won’t be forgotten. Cassidy’s judgment day will come.