Legendary bank robber Willie Sutton reportedly was once asked why he robbed banks, to which he allegedly replied: “Because that’s where the money is.”
If Sutton had been an oilman, he no doubt would have plied his craft in south Louisiana. Because that’s where the oil is. And the gas.
Sutton also would have felt right at home in the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association (LOGA). Mind you, there’s nothing criminal about prudently extracting oil and gas from the marshes of south Louisiana and piping it through miles of man-made canals, as long as you have the drilling rights and valid permits.
But there is something inherently wrong, and possibly illegal, about ruining the environment in the process, particularly when state permits require restoring the marshes afterward — or at least maintaining the canals so that they don’t degrade the marshes around them.
That’s the central question in the landmark environmental lawsuit filed last July by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E) against 97 oil, gas and pipeline companies. The suit claims the defendants failed to honor obligations imposed by their state permits and, as a result, contributed significantly to coastal land loss and the increased risk of flooding in southeast Louisiana.
The energy industry and LOGA are scared to death of this lawsuit. They, along with Gov. Bobby Jindal and others, have called it a money grab by greedy trial lawyers, said it was based on “bad science,” and predicted it would chase oil and gas companies out of Louisiana.
LOGA took it a step further and filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of SLFPA-E’s contract with its legal counsel. The contract includes a handsome contingency fee. LOGA’s lawsuit specifically claims the SLFPA-E suit would cause “irreparable injury” to LOGA members and have a “chilling effect on the exploration, production, development and transportation” of oil and gas in Louisiana.
There’s nothing subtle about Big Oil. Nuances are a foreign concept, like pearls before swine. So it makes perfect sense that one of the state lawmakers leading the charge to derail the local flood protection authority’s environmental lawsuit against 97 energy companies is in the awl-n-gas bidness.
In fact, state Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, is a big dog in the bidness. He’s a principal in Pelican Gas Management Co., based in his hometown. He also serves on the United States Energy Council and the Southern States Energy Board.
Adley also chairs the Senate Transportation, Highways and Public Works Committee, which has dominion over levee boards, flood and drainage projects, waterways and more. His opinion on things like the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E) lawsuit against Big Oil matters a lot.
Not long after SLFPA-E filed its lawsuit in July, Adley sprang into action. He summoned authority members and their attorney, Glad Jones, to Baton Rouge for a joint meeting of the House and Senate transportation committees and read them the riot act. No doubt his compatriots in the awl-n-gas bidness were pleased.
But Adley was just getting started. Since then, he has filed Senate Bill 79, which would help Gov. Bobby Jindal fulfill his promise to fire as many SLFPA-E members as possible, as quickly as possible, to pull down the suit before it ever gets heard. Adley promises to file more legislation going directly at the suit.
Gov. Bobby Jindal isn’t likely a fan of the satirical Krewe du Vieux. In recent years, floats have depicted him dumping an old woman out of a wheelchair into the jaws of an alligator (“YoMamaCare”) and forcing himself on a Pelican. This year, the boisterous krewe has anointed historian and wetlands restoration advocate John Barry as king of its “Where the Vile Things Are” parade.
The author of Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 spent much of the last year championing a lawsuit, that Jindal opposes — a lawsuit against oil companies to pay for damages they caused to the wetlands. On Feb. 15, Barry will lead the irreverent krewe and its procession of brass bands and satirical, racy and offbeat floats. A regular viewer of the parade, Barry embraced the crown with his own theme.
“I’m going to be John of Arc, the Blade of Orleans,” Barry says. “When I walked into the (Krewe du Vieux) den, it occurred to me. It seemed perfect. You have a crusade — trying to protect Orleans. Instead of the Maid of Orleans, it’s the Blade of Orleans.”
Recent polls in Louisiana suggest a majority of voters support legalizing marijuana in the state. Now Louisiana lawmakers have started considering decriminalizing pot possession — and asking what would happen if it was legal.
Yesterday, Gov. Bobby Jindal said he would be open to supporting marijuana use "if there is a legitimate medical need" and under "very strict supervision." And Tuesday, the Louisiana House Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice fielded dozens of testimonies from doctors, civil rights advocates and law enforcement officials to discuss "the feasibility and effectiveness of legalizing marijuana possession and use." Earlier this month, state Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans, pre-filed House Bill 14, which would significantly decrease penalties for criminal simple marijuana possession.
U.S. Sen. David Vitter will run for governor of Louisiana next year, according to an announcement on his website.
In December, Vitter previewed his announcement in an email saying, "Many good friends and supporters have encouraged me to run for Governor in 2015 — to bring my focus and leadership to the challenges we face as a state. We started to consider this as a family over Thanksgiving. We certainly haven't made our decision yet, so we'll be reflecting and praying on it very carefully through the Christmas holidays. "
Last year, Gambit reported on the junior senator's rise to GOP power as to Gov. Bobby Jindal seemingly eyes politics beyond Louisiana: "Louisiana may have a powerful governorship held by a man re-elected less than two years ago with 66 percent of the vote, but in many ways Vitter, not Jindal, already has become the de facto leader of the state's GOP." A November 2013 poll by Southern Media and Opinion Research found Vitter has a 58 percent approval rating among Louisianans.
Previously announced candidates for governor are current Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, a Republican, and State Rep. John Bel Edwards, an Amite Democrat. The election will be held in November 2015.
Update: Here's a portion of his announcement letter, from The Hayride:
I believe that as our next Governor, I can have a bigger impact addressing the unique challenges and opportunities we face in Louisiana . . . helping us truly reach our full potential.
We’ll do this by building excellence in K-12 and higher education, offering every child in Louisiana the skills to compete effectively and achieve his or her dreams. We’ll do it by making Louisiana more attractive to vibrant businesses, growing the good-paying jobs we need today and tomorrow. We’ll do it by reforming taxes and spending, spurring economic growth and creating budget stability.
And through it all, we’ll do it by fighting political corruption and demanding government reform and accountability. That’s a battle I’ve long waged. The difference is I’ll have so many more tools as Governor to do things right and protect taxpayer dollars.
Although an active campaign is still a year away, I’ll start preparing for it immediately by doing what I’ve always done, including as our U.S. Senator. That’s listening to you, knowing that I sure don’t have all the answers.
I’ve held over 342 in-person town hall meetings, 128 telephone town halls, and countless other meetings in every parish of our state. I’ll continue those travels starting tomorrow, listening directly to Louisiana families about what most concerns them.
And then, after Listening and Learning, I will LEAD. Because I’m running to take on the important issues and make the hard decisions, not to avoid them or play politics with them.
This will be my last political job, elected or appointed, period. So my only agenda will be to do what’s best for all Louisianians, from our best and brightest to our most vulnerable.
Wendy and I value your friendship, support, and prayers so much. Please continue to bless us with those gifts.
The 2014 Louisiana Legislative session is a couple months away, and state representatives began pre-filing bills this week. House Bill 10 from state Rep. Henry Burns, R-Haughton, would allow off-duty law enforcement to carry firearms inside bars and restaurants that serve booze. A similar bill was introduced last year but was killed by the Senate Judiciary Committee chaired by state Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans.
Burns told WWL-FM, "If a law enforcement officer was in a place like Applebee's right now with his gun, currently he would be breaking the law. ... I would feel safer, not only for me but for my family, knowing a law enforcement officer that was at an establishment could take what I call the ministry of intervention. The ability to stop someone who is trying to do harm to someone else."
Jeremy Alford reported that Austin Badon, D-New Orleans, plans to file a bill that qould require people buying a gun to register for safety courses. Badon introduced a similar measure last year, but it was killed before the House Criminal Justice Committee.
Last year, Gov. Bobby Jindal signed into law seven bills that he said "improve gun safety" and "strengthen Second Amendment protections" — including a measure that creates a lifetime concealed carry permit, and a measure prohibiting the publication of permit holders' information. That bill met criticism from members of the Louisiana press. Louisiana Press Association director Pamela Mitchell told Gambit that the law is "blatantly unconstitutional." The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence slapped Lousiana with an "F" for its 2013 session.
In fall 2013, historian John Barry lost his seat on the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E) board, a victory for Gov. Bobby Jindal, and a setback for coastal restoration and flood protection for south Louisiana. But as Gambit political editor Clancy DuBos noted, it set him free to speak his mind.
It's probably not the first platform many would have guessed, but Barry was named 2014 king of Krewe Du Vieux. Barry will lead the krewe on its procession through Faubourg Marigny and the French Quarter Feb. 15. Artist Dawn DeDeaux was named royal consort.
Barry is the author of the best-selling Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America and The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Greatest Plague in History.
Barry was vice-chairman of SFLPA-E, which in July filed suit against oil companies seeking compensation for the oil and gas industry damages to coastal wetlands. Barry's summary of the suit and the politics surrounding his removal from the board are here.
Krewe du Vieux typically choses satirical themes, and past royalty have included Dr. John, Women With a Vision Director Deon Haywood, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation (and past Contemporary Arts Center) Director Don Marshall, R&B legends Ernie K-Doe, Frankie Ford and Irma Thomas, former Times-Picayune cartoonist Walt Handelsman, writer and bon vivant Andre Codrescu and others.
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