Friday, 06 February 2015 12:06
Interesting Russian EuroChem-Louisiana transaction
 

capitol-newby Tom Aswell, Publisher of LouisianaVoice.com

What should Louisiana citizens know about a $12 million real estate deal in Iberville Parish between the Louisiana Department of Economic Development (LED) and a Russian Oligarch involving a proposed fertilizer plant on property surrounding a Louisiana National Guard facility?

 

Apparently nothing, if one judges from the status updates coming from the Jindal administration since the deal was made back in June of 2013.

Throw in a curious buy-back clause contained in the agreement between the state and EuroChem Louisiana LLC, an option for EuroChem to purchase a second tract in St. John the Baptist Parish, and talk about environmental emission credits that were supposedly promised to Eurochem but then appear to have evaporated into…well, thin air, and you have the makings of political intrigue with an international flavor.

Readers may remember our post last October 20 in which we revealed what appeared to be a sweetheart deal between the state and Vantage Health Plan whereby Vantage was allowed to purchase the former Virginia Hotel in Monroe for $881,000 without having to bother with a pesky public auction and sealed bids.

That transaction was made possible (even though there was another party interested in purchasing the building that had been serving as the State Office Building in Monroe) by Senate Bill 216 (SB 216) by Sens. Mike Walsworth (R-West Monroe), Rick Gallot (D-Ruston), Neil Riser (R-Columbia), and Francis Thompson (D-Delhi).

Well, it turns out there was considerably more to SB 216 (which became Act 127 upon the signature of Gov. Bobby Jindal). We saw the bill in its entirety at the time we wrote our story last October but did not understand the significance of a part of the bill entitled Section 3.

Until now.

Section 3 called for the sale of 2,150 acres of land within the town of St. Gabriel in Iberville Parish to a then unidentified “business entity that enters into a cooperative agreement” with the Department of Economic Development.

Not only was the prospective buyer not named in the bill (contrary to the other part of the bill that clearly identified Vantage Health and the purchase price of the Virginia Hotel), but the bill also contained no mention of a purchase price for the Iberville property. Neither the name EuroChem nor a purchase price is contained anywhere in the bill.

It is understandable that the buyer’s name might be left out of the bill, especially if the sale is still pending and nothing has been finalized. But when considering a proposal to dispose of a 2,150-acre tract of property for industrial purposes, one might be reasonably expected to ask how much money is involved before casting a vote on such a measure.

The bill passed the House by a 96-1 vote and by a 31-1 vote in the Senate. Voting against the bill in the House was Rep. Marcus Hunter (D-Monroe) while the lone dissenting vote in the Senate was cast by Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge). Seven senators and eight House members were absent or did not vote.

The Senate vote was on April 24, 2013, and the House approval followed on May 22. Gov. Bobby Jindal signed the bill on June 5 and the cooperative endeavor agreement was signed on June 14 by LED Deputy Secretary Steven Grissom—even though the bill did not become law until Aug. 1, 2013.

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