NEW ORLEANS — A nearly 39 million-acre oil and gas lease sale Wednesday for the central Gulf of Mexico drew $1.2 billion in high bids by offshore energy producers.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said 52 companies submitted 407 bids on 320 tracts, three to 230 miles off the coasts of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. The tracts, covering more than 1.7 million acres, are in water depths of nine to more than 11,115 feet.
“Today’s sale reflects strong, continuing industry interest in the Gulf of Mexico,” said U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who opened the sale. “Developing public energy resources in the Gulf of Mexico is good for the Gulf’s economy, and reflects President (Barack) Obama’s commitment to expand oil and natural gas production safely and responsibly, reducing our dependence on foreign oil and supporting American energy jobs.”
BOEM estimates the sale could lead to the production of up to 890 million barrels of oil and 3.9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The sum of all bids received totaled $1.5 billion.
The sale builds on a num-ber of recent offshore lease sales, including one last November in the western Gulf that made more than 20 million acres available, and a sale last June in the central Gulf that made more than 39 million acres available.
Budget doesn’t plan for new state trooper training
BATON ROUGE — Louisiana won’t train new state troopers for a fifth year under the budget proposal being considered by lawmakers.
Louisiana State Police Col. Mike Edmonson told lawmakers on the House Appropriations Committee that he’s comfortable with the number of troopers patrolling the highways, about 575. That’s down from more than 700 four years ago.
Gov. Bobby Jindal didn’t include the estimated $3.7 million that it would cost to pay for a new trooper class, their salaries and benefits in his budget proposal for the new fiscal year that begins July 1.
Edmonson assured lawmakers combing through the budget that he doesn’t need to train a new cadet class until 2015.
Ex-BP engineer accused of deleting voicemails
NEW ORLEANS — A former BP engineer charged with deleting text messages about the company’s response to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico faces new allegations that he also deleted voicemails from his phone.
A superseding indictment handed up Wednesday by a federal grand jury in New Orleans accuses Kurt Mix of deleting about 40 voicemails from a supervisor and roughly 15 voicemails from a BP contractor.
Mix, of Katy, Texas, pleaded not guilty in May to two counts of obstruction of justice after he was charged with deliberately deleting more than 200 text messages to and from the supervisor and more than 100 to and from the contractor.
Prosecutors claim he deleted the messages to prevent them from being used in a grand jury’s probe of the spill.
Scott not guilty
of sexual battery
GONZALES — A state judge has found former LSU running back Charles Scott not guilty in a sexual battery case.
The 24-year-old Scott was booked into the Ascension Parish Jail in November 2011 after allegedly raping an 18-year-old woman at his Prairieville home.
He was arraigned later on a charge of sexual battery, a lesser offense than the crime of simple rape he originally was accused of committing. In February 2012, Scott entered a plea of not guilty.
The case was heard Tuesday by state District Judge Jessie LeBlanc.
If convicted, Scott could have faced up to 10 years in prison.
Scott started his final two seasons at LSU, the best of them his junior season when he rushed for 1,174 yards and a Southeastern Conference-leading 18 touchdowns.
Board eliminates assistant’s funding
LAFAYETTE — The Lafayette Parish School Board voted 5-4 to eliminate the budget line for a special assistant to Superintendent Pat Cooper.
The assistant, Thad Welch, has been helping oversee facilities, maintenance, transportation and grounds for more than a year, but was hired without having the high school diploma required on the original job description. Welch is now working toward his GED.
Welch’s position pays about $76,000 per year. Board member Tehmi Chassion and others have maintained that district officials violated their own policies with Welch’s hiring.
Cooper said he was disappointed, but not surprised, at the board’s action Wednesday night.
Prison phone firms can seek exclusion
BATON ROUGE — A divided Public Service Commission decided Wednesday to give companies that provide phone service to Louisiana’s prisons and local jails the ability to argue their case for continuing pricy surcharges on the calls.
The five-member regulatory panel, which oversees telecommunications companies, unanimously agreed in December to cut the rates charged for most prison calls within two years — and to remove surcharges within 30 days.
The PSC edged back from the decision a bit Wednesday, voting 3-2 to create a process for letting the companies file for an exemption from the surcharge ban.
Hammond man arrested in child pornography case
HAMMOND — Authorities have arrested a 32-year-old Hammond man in a child pornography investigation.
During a search of the man’s home, Tangipahoa Parish deputies said they confiscated sexually explicit images of children, including a video showing several adults engaged in sexually graphic activities with a child about 5 years old.
Deputies say Patrick Lites was arrested Wednesday and his bond was set at $100,000.
Man surrenders in ‘murder for hire’ case
PORT ALLEN — A fugitive implicated in the “murder for hire” slaying of an Addis man has surrendered to authorities. Wednesday night’s arrest of Karl Michael Howard came just hours after a judge denied bond to the victim’s wife already jailed for her alleged role in the killing.
Last week, a grand jury charged Monique O. Kitts with first-degree murder and criminal conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of her husband, Corey Kitts. His body was found July 9, 2010.
The grand jury also handed down first-degree murder and criminal conspiracy to commit first-degree murder indictments against Howard and Corey Knox.
During Kitts’ bail hearing, prosecutors accused her of hiring Howard to kill her husband so she could cash in on his life insurance policy.
UNO receives $3.9M alumnus gift
NEW ORLEANS — The philosophy and history departments at the University of New Orleans will split a $3.9 million gift from an alumnus who earned a degree in each field.
The gift, from businessman Carl Muckley Sr., will establish an endowed scholarship fund to honor his mentors in each department.
From The Associated Press.
said Peter Fos, university president.
The philosophy department gift will establish the Donald K. Hanks Endowed Scholarship Fund in Philosophy, providing perpetual funding for a scholarship Mulkey set up in 1988. At least half of the annual interest on the endowment will underwrite scholarships and awards for students, said department chairman Rob Stufflebeam.
The gift to the history department honors Joseph Logsdon and will provide money for an undergraduate scholarship Mulkey set up in Logsdon’s name. It also will underwrite a professorship honoring Logsdon, who died in 1999, and establish a scholarship in Muckley’s name for first-generation college students, department chairman Andrew Goss said.
Mulkey earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 1975 and, eight years later, he earned a master’s degree in history. He continued auditing courses until his death in 2004.