Last Modified: Friday, August 09, 2013 7:08 PM
BATON ROUGE (AP) — A legislative committee on Friday delayed approval of incentives for the Sasol project in Southwest Louisiana, with some members complaining they don’t have enough information about the cost of tax incentives used to lure the facility.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s economic development chief, Stephen Moret, fought the delay, saying the multibillion-dollar project by the South African energy company will — from the beginning — create more tax revenue than the state grants in incentives.
The Joint Budget Committee delayed the project until its next meeting — likely in two weeks. However, a special meeting with the committee could be scheduled for Thursday.
Some members, including Committee Chairman Sen. Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville, complained that a lack of information on the cost of incentives makes the creation of an annual budget difficult.
Following the decision, House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, said he understands the concerns from lawmakers who represent areas outside of Southwest Louisiana because they don’t get constant updates on the Sasol project.
“We’ve been on the ground watching this project from its inception,” he said. “We’ve seen every step of the way, and some members are not privy to the information we are. So they want all the factual information, and rightfully so.”
Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Sulphur, said the delay “is not a setback to the Sasol project.”
“The committee was looking for some legitimate information on the incentive package,” Johns said. “Everyone in the committee recognizes how big and important this is to the state. While I’m disappointed we couldn’t finalize it today, one week is not going to make any difference.”
Michael Hayes, Sasol’s public affairs manager for U.S. megaprojects, said he “respects the seriousness” in the committee’s decision to delay moving forward with the incentives.
“On one hand we were delayed, but on the other hand it’s good to see the Legislature being so thorough,” Hayes said. “We hope that when the Legislature gets back together they have all the information that they need, and we feel confident that they will approve it.”
The committee also delayed a $3 million agreement with Lockheed-Martin to build cryogenic tanks at a New Orleans facility.
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Staff Writers John Guidroz and Frank DiCesare contributed to this report.