Vitter: EPA can hurt Louisiana industry

Sen. David Vitter visited the office of the Ascension Chamber of Commerce in mid-August for a town hall meeting to discuss various topics in the state and Washington, D.C., among them his role as the ranking Republican member on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

“This is the most, radical in my opinion, aggressive (Environmental Protection Agency) we have ever seen, and it really has an impact on some of our industry,” Vitter said. “I’m for health and safety regulations, but I think this is an agenda that goes way beyond that.”  Vitter said the Obama administration has been too willing to side with environmentalists that are filing lawsuits against the EPA and get them settled out of court.

Ascension Parish Assessor M.J. “Mert” Smiley Jr. asked Vitter how Congress could mitigate the impact of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, which has the potential to raise flood insurance premiums drastically in south Louisiana.

Sen. David Vitter visited the office of the Ascension Chamber of Commerce on Aug. 15 for a town hall meeting on issues in the state and Washington, D.C.

Sen. David Vitter visited the office of the Ascension Chamber of Commerce on Aug. 15 for a town hall meeting on issues in the state and Washington, D.C.

Vitter said the bad news about Biggert-Waters is that everybody knew flood insurance rates would rise, “and that’s necessary to make the system solvent.”

However, some extreme cases have shown flood insurance for homeowners could go from $600 a year to $25,000 a year.“That’s un-American to put them out of their house, which represents their life savings,” Vitter said.  Vitter said the Biggert-Waters act must be tweaked, via flood insurance mapping by FEMA, whose agency officials recently visited south Louisiana to take into account levees that were unaccounted for, or the reform bill won’t be fiscally sustainable because many homeowners will opt out of paying exorbitant premiums.

Meanwhile, the reform has been pushed back a year before taking effect.Mike Waguespack asked Vitter if defunding the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare, is actually possible to defeat the legislation.

Before giving a final answer, Vitter noted that the American public failed to defeat the health care overhaul by reelecting President Barack Obama, and then the U.S. Supreme Court failed to overturn the bill.

“So I’m for whatever works, temporary, permanent, all of the above, but I think the ultimate solution and complete de-funding is going to take two more elections,” said Vitter, noting the majority of the U.S. Senate — currently controlled by Democrats — could be up for grabs in 2014.

Glenda Shaheen, business manager of GSA, said her company’s health insurance premiums rose recently by 9 percent and with Obamacare, she fears premiums will rise again by more than 50 percent in 2014.Shaheen asked if whether insurance companies are pretending they won’t make more money when Obamacare is fully implemented when all signs point to the fact that they will.

Vitter said he’d mitigate higher insurance premiums by allowing customers to shop for better deals across state lines and increase competition. “That would significantly increase choice for you, and competition for them.”

Ultimately, Vitter said the new healthcare law is designed to encourage consumers to reject higher premiums, which would make room for a government-controlled healthcare system.

Shaheen said she predicts the new healthcare law will fracture the working class, with more people working a part-time job or multiple jobs to make ends meet rather than one full-time job.

Another attendee asked if a national policy could be implemented to put an end to the cyclic boom-and-bust nature of the oil and gas industry.Vitter said the current boom, particularly in fracking for natural gas, is taking place on private lands. He said the federal government must work to increase drilling and exploration on public lands as well.“But don’t take for granted that they can’t screw up what we’re doing right, including on fracking,” Vitter said.

Vitter was finally asked what can be done to balance the federal budget and stop the government from borrowing cash from foreign countries like China.

Vitter said a balanced budget amendment could be phased in within two years. “That’s all going to come to a head this fall, because when we go back into session after Labor Day, the ultimate discussion is going to be spending, debt and the debt ceiling.”