A $1.1 billion solar panel manufacturing plant is coming to Louisiana. First Solar, the largest solar energy manufacturer in the Western Hemisphere, announced on Thursday that it has chosen the Acadiana Regional Airport in New Iberia as the site of its fifth American manufacturing facility. The project, which is believed to be the largest single capital investment in the area’s history, is expected to create 700 new jobs with an annual payroll of $40 million. The Louisiana Illuminators Wesley Muller reports that taxpayers will foot part of the bill:
To secure the project in Iberia Parish, the state of Louisiana offered First Solar various incentives including $30 million worth of performance-based grants. The company is also expected to participate in the state’s Quality Jobs tax credit program that is contingent upon job creation.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Energy is giving Louisiana up to $603 million to create a direct air capture hub in Calcasieu Parish, which could create 2,300 new jobs. The project aims to vacuum carbon directly out of the atmosphere, but critics say it comes with the same risks and controversy as other recently announced carbon capture projects. The New York Times’ Coral Davenport explains:
(M)any scientists are skeptical, and environmental advocates have criticized the approach. … “It’s useful to give them an excuse for not ever stopping oil,” [former Vice President Al Gore] he said. “That gives them a license to continue producing more and more oil and gas.” Mr. Gore noted that the current cost of direct air capture technology was extraordinarily high and that the process required so much energy that it would make more sense to prevent carbon emissions in the first place rather than try to clean them up after the fact. Oil and gas companies say that the costs will fall and that the processes will improve in the coming years.
Paperwork snafus shouldn’t end a child’s health coverage
As many as 7 million people could lose their health insurance as states undertake a massive Medicaid disenrollment process mandated by the end of the Covid-19 pandemic. That includes millions of people who will lose coverage for paperwork issues, not because they make too much money to qualify. States that rely heavily on automation, such as Virginia, to review eligibility have seen as little as 6% of people lose coverage for procedural reasons. But Louisiana, which relies heavily on “snail mail” to process renewals, has seen nearly three-fourths of the 50,600 people removed from its Medicaid rolls lose coverage because of paperwork issues. As the Washington Post editorial board explains, there are steps states can take to ensure kids don’t lose their health coverage because of paperwork mistakes.
If states cannot quickly stand up a system as effective as Virginia’s, they have some stopgap options. Oregon and Washington allow children to remain under Medicaid protection until age 6 without requiring renewals. … The Biden administration has compelled 14 states to pause procedural removals for some or all of their populations and reinstate coverage to some who were denied. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is also examining disenrollment problems in about a dozen other states. But it would be better if state officials did not have to be ordered to try harder. Medicaid is supposed to serve some of the country’s most vulnerable people: low-income Americans and their children. State Medicaid programs should help them access care — not hinder them.
ICYMI: A new report by the Louisiana Budget Project explains how we got here—and what we can do to help minimize the looming coverage cliff.
Board complies with Edwards’ clemency request
The Louisiana Pardon Board scheduled hearings on Thursday for 20 of the 56 death row inmates seeking commutation to life sentences. The move came a day after Gov. John Bel Edwards directed the board to determine whether nearly all of the inmates on Louisiana’s death row should be granted clemency. The Advocates Tyler Bridges reports.
It’s not clear when or if the five-member board will schedule hearing dates for the other 36 death row inmates who have filed clemency cases. It’s up to the board, not the governor, to decide whether to grant the clemency requests, on a case-by-case basis. “I am grateful that the board has acted so quickly in scheduling the cases for a hearing,” said Cecelia Kappel, executive director of the Capital Appeals Project, a New Orleans-based group that helped organize the mass appeal by death row inmates in June. “
How to address the shortage of trained workers
President Joe Biden has signed bills into law that will boost semiconductor production, upgrade the nation’s infrastructure and make historic new investments in green energy. But there aren’t currently enough trained tradespeople to fill the thousands of jobs created by these laws. The Washington Post editorial board offers suggestions on how to meet this challenge, such as expanding apprenticeships, helping with child care and transportation for workers and recruiting more women.
Women account for just 10 percent of construction workers and about 30 percent of manufacturing workers. This needs to change. The surprising growth in the U.S. labor force in the past year has come mainly from women, especially women of color. Making these sectors’ workforces more diverse isn’t about being “woke”; it’s a necessity. Many positions in the chip industry are “advanced manufacturing” jobs that require at least an associate’s degree, which women earn at more than 1.5 times the rate of men.
Number of the Day
46% – Percentage of the Louisiana state Senate that was elected without opposition after the three-day candidate qualifying period wrapped up on Thursday. (Source: Louisiana Secretary of State)