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Louisiana: The State We’re In | Hurricane Season,Cancer Alley,Home Insurance, Mona Lisa S. | Season 46 | Episode 44

Support for Louisiana, the state we’re in is provided by.

Every day I go to work for Entergy.

I know customers are counting on me.

So Entergy is investing millions of dollars to keep the lights on and installing new technology to prevent outages before they happen.

Together, together, together.

We power life.

Additional support provided by the Fred B and Ruth B Zigler Foundation and the Zigler Art Museum located in Jennings City Hall.

The museum focuses on emerging Louisiana artists and is an historical and cultural center for Southwest Louisiana and the Foundation for Excellence in Louisiana Public Broadcasting.

With support from viewers like you.

And never want to leave, When she saw how the premiums were increasing, she said, We’re going to move in three years.

Insurance price hikes are dealing many homeowners a double blow this hurricane season.

We are the victims and we are not being protected.

The EPA closes its environmental civil rights investigation.

These are not just record breaking numbers.

They’re off the chart, record breaking numbers.

Hurricane season may be worse than we thought.


Captured that black Creole talk, which is very unique, very sweet to the ear.

It is music to our ears.

Meet Louisiana’s poet laureate on a mission to inspire future scribes and promote Louisiana’s literary legacy.

Hello, everyone.

I’m Karen LaBlanc, Kara St. Cyr is out tonight.

Topping our headlines, the Louisiana legislature will convene for a veto session Tuesday.

Lawmakers had until midnight Thursday, July 13th to cast votes on whether they wanted to meet and review governor John Bel Edwards line item and bill vetoes.

The session starts at noon on Tuesday and can run for a total of five days, although lawmakers say they don’t expect to be in session until Saturday of next week.

And now on to some good news for the nation.

The Department of Labor reports that the US inflation rate dropped to a 3% year over year in June.

That’s a full percentage point below last month’s rate and far below the 9% rate that consumers faced last summer.

And now here’s a look at more headlines making news around the state.

The Louisiana Department of Health is urging the public to protect themselves against mosquito borne diseases by preventing mosquito bites that can expose people to the West Nile virus.

The West Nile virus can cause illness in people and animals.

And while 80% of human cases are asymptomatic, many people can develop West Nile fever.

Last year, Louisiana experienced 41 cases of the West Nile virus and seven deaths.

In sports news, Baton Rouge has a new professional hockey team.

The Baton Rouge decided to go.

The team’s name and logo were unveiled at the Raising Cane’s River Center alongside the team’s owner.

This coming season will include 28 home games.

Louisiana’s ongoing insurance crisis is dealing a double blow to many homeowners faced with rising rates for both property and flood insurance.

Meanwhile, countless others are struggling to find and afford coverage.

Some relief is on the way with insurance reforms recently passed by the Louisiana legislature and efforts in Congress to curb flood insurance premiums.

Here’s more.

Jim Starnes and his wife have lived in their Mandeville home for 18 years.

It was supposed to be there forever, home until premium hikes for property and flood insurance left them struggling to find and afford coverage.

Never one to leave.

When she saw how the premiums were increasing, she said.

We’re going to move in three years.

So she’s leaving the beloved Louisiana.


She wants to do that.

And that’s sad.

Several devastating hurricanes in recent history have left insurance companies struggling to pay claims.

Many insurers have quit writing policies and others have gone into liquidation, leaving few options for consumers.

The insurance company that we had pulled out of the state and when they did that, nobody was writing insurance.

South of our 12 were miles south of our 12.

So the only insurance we could get was L.A. citizens, which was a very expensive policy.

The Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corporation is run by the state of Louisiana as a property insurance plan of last resort.

Thousands of Louisiana property owners have been forced into the program after insurance companies quit writing policies or went out of business.

Consumers need to be savvy that you get what you pay for.

So if you make a lot of claims, the law in Louisiana allows an insurance company to drop you from coverage to say, we no longer want to be on this risk.

Attorney Shannon Howard Eldridge represents two insurance companies forced into liquidation.

Because of the number of claims.

They just they couldn’t bear the burden, financial burden of that.

I’ve seen clients having to pay premiums sometimes twice what they paid last year just to keep their coverage.

So this year, L.A. citizens increased my policy 74% skyrocket it because of that when my mortgage company paid that policy.

Now my escrow is way, way short.

Not only are they charged me for the to ask her what they paid, but now the reserves that they want to hold has increased.

So my my home payment was going to go up probably about 30%.

And I daresay literally thousands are going to turn in the keys to their homes in coastal parishes.

The property insurance price hikes coupled with rising flood insurance rates, equate to a double whammy for property owners.

Jim says his private flood insurance premium went up 20% after the company informed him of a change in his flood risk rating.

So are you now with the National Flood Insurance Program?

I did have to go with that and that was probably another of another $400 increase to go with them.

Flood insurance policies can be purchased through private insurers or the National Flood Insurance Program, which recently raised rates due to a new risk rating system brought.

In 2.0.

This was a mistake.

This was made this is is injured American citizens.

And yet it was debated in good faith and passed by Congress.

They thought they were doing the right thing, you see.

Representative Clay Higgins coauthored the National Flood Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2023 to cap rate hikes on the federal flood insurance program.

And this bill caps annual increases at 9%, which which I would argue is too much.

You understand?

I mean, it’s but it’s better than 15 or 18%.

The struggle now becomes getting a word out amongst our colleagues and getting some traction in committees in the House and the Senate so that we can ultimately sign this bill into law and help Louisiana citizens and Americans across the country that that require NFP assistance.

At the state level.

Louisiana is trying to incentivize property insurance companies to write more policies with a grant program called the insurer Louisiana Incentive Program.

We got eight companies interested in applying and distributed 42 of the 45 million that was made available to those eight companies to write new business, a factor of the amount of the grant they got.

If they got a $10 million grant, they had to put up $10 million of matching funds in an escrow account and then write twice that combined amount.

In new premium in Louisiana.

The goal is to get more Louisiana property owners out of the citizens plan by helping them find traditional insurance coverage, lessening the burden on the state plan.

Other insurance reforms attempting to stabilize the state’s insurance industry.

House Bill 183, which prohibits the assignment of benefits between policyholders and repair service providers such as roofers and contractors.

So that would prevent, for example, a contractor or someone holding themselves out to be a public adjuster from knocking on your door and getting the right to be paid under your policy, with or without your knowledge.

So it is a good development to protect the insurance of the state.

Over the past few years, Jim has tried to piecemeal a patchwork of insurance coverage and says it’s becoming an all consuming job dealing with fluctuating price hikes and fickle insurance companies.

I feel like I’m being bullied to a degree.

Unfortunately, in the last few years we’ve had several severe storms with extensive damage and a lot of expensive claims.

And I think over time, if we’re lucky enough not to have another bad year or a bad few years, things will get better for us.

But it’s going to take time.

Most homeowner’s insurance policies do not cover flood damage, so it’s up to the homeowner to purchase a separate flood insurance policy.

Now, to learn more about federal flood insurance.

Go to www.floodsmart.gov.

experts of extreme heat may create the perfect cocktail for an overactive hurricane season despite El Nino.

Kara St. Cyr met with state climatologist Barry Keim to discuss why scientists are concerned.

Let’s take a look.

Thank you so much for joining us, Barry.

How are you doing?

Very well, thank you.

All right.

So we’re going to start talking about El Nino.

So El Nino is a weather pattern that’s known for having drier and less wet conditions, correct.

In some locations?

That is.


In some locations.



Well, so let’s talk about what an El Nino is first.

So what an El Nino is, is that there’s a weakening in the circulation in the tropical Pacific Ocean.

And essentially what that does is it allows a large pool of very warm water to build up in the tropical Pacific Ocean.

And when those sea surface temperatures exceed a certain threshold, we call it an El Nino.

Now, when those sea surface temperatures are colder than normal, we call that a La Nina.

We’ve been in La Nina in and out for the last three years, and that finally went away.

That helped create more hurricanes, I might add, that finally went away.

Now the pendulum has swung in the other direction, and now we’re in an El Nino.

Now, although sea surface temperatures are running warmer than normal, and that is such a large pool of energy, if you will like, it’s fed into the atmosphere that it has impacts all across the globe and all what we call tele connections, all these little weird anomalies will pop up all over the surface of the earth that are related to the El Nino.

But they happen at a far distance from from where the actual pool of warm water is actually located.

One of those tele connections is an impact on a hurricane season and actually reduces the number of hurricanes because it creates wind shear over the breeding grounds in the Atlantic Ocean.

Okay, So this is in the Pacific, but it creates very strong winds across the tropical Atlantic Ocean and it limits the number of storms that can form and the ones that do tend to be weaker.

So El Nino is actually our friend during hurricane season.

So going into this hurricane season, that’s a good thing.

But but there are other things that also play some role.

What’s causing these above average are record breaking temperatures.

Well, it’s we have very weak trade winds over the the you know, over those breeding grounds.

And normally, you know, the the heat we call the easterly trade, the winds blow across those that ocean surface.

Now, that picks up moisture and that cools that surface down a little bit.

Now, with the lack of of wind blowing across those ocean surfaces, they just keep keep heating up and heating up and heating up.

And again, we’re at the point right now to where they are, the record breaking and absurdly record breaking.

Well, what are the tropics looking like now?

I mean, is there anything coming toward us?

Well, it’s pretty quiet right now.

In fact, what’s happening?

Those trade winds have actually picked up just a little bit since, you know, since earlier in the season.

And now we’re getting a little bit of what’s called Saharan dust headed on our way.

That’s Saharan air layer.

And when that’s in place, that stabilizes the atmosphere and mitigates some of the storms from that perspective.

So I’d say for the foreseeable future, when I say the foreseeable future, the next week to ten days, yeah, we’re not we’re not looking at any serious activity.

All right.

Well, thank you so much, Barry.

It’s a pleasure to be here.


The EPA dropped its investigation into Louisiana’s cancer alley and its link to racial discrimination, plunging environmental advocates into a state of unrest.

Kara St. Cyr rehashes the details of the investigation and talks to advocates about the future of anti-pollution work in St James Parish.

We’ve had this picture when we marched to the capital in Baton Rouge.

Robert Taylor and Pat Brown and myself.

I forgot I haven’t got a date then don’t like to put dates on things.

Sharon Levine is somewhat of a local celebrity in Saint James Parish.

She’s plastered on newspaper articles as the face of air pollution advocacy.

I met a lot of people and they are concerned about what’s going on in St James.

And just like I said, we brought our complaint to them.

We don’t wait till they come to us.

In 2018, she founded Rice Saint James to fight the influx of air pollution.

Her focus was to limit industrialization by advocating against, for most plastics, a petrochemical plant being built near her parish.

That litigation is still pending.

Her second focus was to limit emissions from already existing industries like Dinka, a petrochemical plant that emits a known carcinogen chlorine.

My neighbor on this side of me died with cancer, and the other on that side died with cancer.

And we have so many other people who have cancer right now as we speak.

Right down the street, there’s a lady with cancer.

Later, I work with the cancer core slew of people with cancer.

Dinka is one of many industries lining the 85 mile stretch of land dubbed Cancer Alley.

It starts near Plaquemine and ends in the River parishes near New Orleans.

The stretch is the focus of criticism from environmental activists all over the state.

The country really.

But last year, the complaints made it all the way to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA promised an investigation.

The residents of Cancer Alley have been facing disproportionate exposure to environmental harms for decades, and EPA accepted for investigation a complaint grounded in civil rights.

Debbie Chisholm was an attorney with Earthjustice, a group that asked EPA to investigate.

She says the agency’s initial report suggested evidence of discrimination.

They were looking to see if, in fact, the residents had adverse and disparate health impacts from these exposures.

The EPA was investigating whether actions by Q and the Department of Health adversely affected the black communities near these areas.

The Dinka facility, the location where Formosa Plastics would be built.

And Cancer Alley as a whole.

The initial report raised concerns about the health of students and residents near those places.

EPA’s initial factual investigation strongly suggests that Louisiana residents who identify as black and are living and or attending school near the dental facility have been subjected to adverse and disparate health impacts as a result of the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality Decisions.

In May, the state of Louisiana filed a lawsuit against the EPA, accusing the agency of abusing its power.

The Dinka plant also weighed in, accusing the EPA of advancing a political agenda.

The next month, on June 27th, the EPA dropped its investigation.

I feel hurt.

I feel disappointed because we are the victims and we are not being protected.

And I feel like you should protect us.

And I feel like EPA should protect us.

And I feel like, first of all, our officials, local officials, now government are not protecting us.

We reached out to the EPA for an interview, but were declined.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the agency wrote that on June 27, 2023, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights and the Office of External Civil Rights Compliance, issued letters administratively closing its investigation of complaints.

They went on to say that they remain, quote, fully committed to improving environmental conditions in Saint John the Baptist and St James Parishes.

From high school as Michael and my Lord Randolph, the EPA told us that they will come down and have a meeting with us to explain why they made that decision.

And and I believe them.

And I still have confidence in them.

Levine says now isn’t the time to quit.

It’s back to the drawing board.

This is my home and I’m not about to leave.

And God, when he spoke to me, I asked him if I should leave, and he told me no.

So I received my answer from him and he told me to fight.

We also reached out to Elder AQ for an interview, but they declined as well.

They did release a statement, quote, LGBTQ is satisfied with the outcome of the EPA Title six Investigation of Complaints Filed against LGBTQ.

In court filings, EPA noted that those complaints have now been resolved and the investigation is closed without any finding of a Title six violation.

EPA advised Lady Q Secretary jingles on June 27th that it had closed the complaints.

Louisiana is known for its legend and lore, making it a muse to many artist musicians and writers to promote and preserve the state’s scribe’s and literary legacy.

Louisiana established a poet laureate program.

Meet Louisiana’s latest poet laureate Mona Lisa Solowey.

And she’s on a mission to inspire future writers, memory keepers and cultural ambassadors.

Oh, Cooper Do you know they call me the most and I won’t stop trying to create a disturbance in your heart.

Mona Lisa Solowey speaks in a melodic cadence of Creole, a language and a dialect that forms the fabric of her being.

Her culture and her community.

As Louisiana’s poet laureate Mona Lisa travels the state, giving a voice to her cultural experiences through public readings of her poetry.

Why capture that black Creole talk, which is very unique, very sweet to the ear.

It is music to our ears where we say, Hey, now we mean it that way.

Yeah, we mean it.

And there’s a lot more than that.

So our voice is not just Chicago, not just New York or Brooklyn, not just D.C., but New Orleans.

It’s great music, great food, but we have a flair for language.

And it is Creole is a language, but we also have dialects that are precious and we have a lot of sayings and I try to capture those voices.

The Louisiana Poet Laureate program allows communities across the state to bring the poet Laureate to their town and typically do a reading or a lecture or a workshop with people who are interested in poetry, or maybe people who want to know more about poetry.

The Louisiana Endowment for Humanities oversees the nomination process for the State Poet Laureate program, which the legislature established in 1942.

It’s a great honor, and I’m so grateful for that.

But my chief role is to encourage people to tell their stories in poetry and however they tell it.

And I really want people to interview their elders right now.

To day, interview your parents, talk to them.

The governor picks the poet laureate to serve a two year term from a nominated committee’s top recommendations.

The Louisiana Endowment for Humanities helps orchestrate the poet laureates, public events and programs.

It really is about exploring what makes us human.

And you do that by talking to other people about their experiences, how they differ, how they relate.

That happens through the Poet Laureate program.

And Mona Lisa in particular has taken up just about every offer she’s received.

She’s traveled the state tirelessly over the past two years.

Chronicling and celebrating Creole culture is Mona Lisa’s life work as a poet and folklorist, which has attracted the attention of U.S. presidents, publishers and notable literary peers.

She writes in her upstairs library lined with shelves of books she has collected and curated over the years.

Among them, her first collection of poetry, published in 2005.

My first book, Red Beans and Rust.

Yours was documenting black Creole culture before Hurricane Katrina, and that was a combination of pieces that grew up from the voices of my family, my father, my mother, my sister and my uncles.

They just had so much everything for me.

So that was us before Katrina.

And then Katrina happened.

And so many of us lost everything as I did.

Mona Lisa’s muse is the New Orleans community where she grew up.

She lives on the side of her childhood home devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

Like so many others in her neighborhood.

We had nine and a half feet of water right here.

So 5000 books drowned.

My research that wasn’t published pictures.

All the family pictures.

She rebuilt on the side, elevating her new home with front and back porches perched above the street level with a bird’s eye view of the people and places that inform and inspire her work.

The Louisiana poet laureate also teaches English as an endowed professor at Dillard University and is coauthoring a novel.

The literature I read was mostly dead white people, great literature, but it wasn’t my reflection.

So black literature wasn’t taught.

It wasn’t promoted.

And I still said, Well, where’s my neighborhood?

Where is my seventh Ward?

Downtown, down river, folks.

Our neighbors, our community, our characters who are unequal and talented.

So I was always talking back to the greats.

And when Nikki Giovanni says all the while, we were quite happy.

I was trying to capture that happiness because we had very little, but we had each other and there was so much joy in that togetherness.

This state of legend and lore has inspired many literary greats that the Poet Laureate program seeks to preserve and promote.

A new LP documentary chronicles the state’s scribes profiling Southern Story tellers in literature, music, television and film.

Meanwhile, Mona Lisa, she’s tirelessly traveling the state, inspiring the next generation of Louisiana storytellers, memory keepers and cultural ambassadors.

So as poet laureate, it’s important for me to go to communities and they get a taste of who we are here in New Orleans, and I encourage them to tell their stories and document their traditions so that we have not just my poetry and we are blessed with great writers here, so many.

So I’m honored to be a part to be in that number.

As we see.

You can meet Mona Lisa Salloi and hear her recite poetry Saturday, July 15th, as part of PBS’s Spinning Yarn event.

Now it’s held at the East Baton Rouge Parish Main Library from 3 to 5 p.m.. Salloi joins other notable Louisiana storytellers for the event, which is free and open to the public.

Also during that time, children are invited to attend Ziggy’s arts adventure with storytelling at the library from 3 to 4 p.m., featuring puppet stars Ziggy and friends who will share Louisiana’s stories and songs, and the national premiere of the PBS series Southern Storytellers airs on Lpx Tuesday, July 18th.

And you do not want to miss it.

And that is our show for the week.

Remember, you can watch anything LPB any time, wherever you are with our LPB PBS app.

You can also watch LPB news and public affairs shows as well as other Louisiana programs you’ve come to enjoy over the years.

And please like us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for everyone at Louisiana Public Broadcasting.

I’m Karen LaBlanc.

Until next time.

That’s The State We’re In.

Every day I go to work for Entergy.

I know customers are counting on me.

So Entergy is investing millions of dollars to keep the lights on and installing new technology to prevent outages before they happen.

Together, together.


We power life.

Additional support provided by the Fred B and Ruth B Zeigler Foundation and the Zigler Art Museum, located in Jennings City Hall.

The museum focuses on emerging Louisiana artists and is an historical and cultural center for Southwest Louisiana and the Foundation for Excellence in Louisiana Public Broadcasting.

With support from viewers like you.

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