Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has flouted the advice of his own attorney general and scores of legal scholars by signing a bill which blocks a levee board’s lawsuit against oil and gas companies, who are accused of destroying the state’s coast. “This bill will help stop frivolous lawsuits and create a more fair and predictable legal environment, and I am proud to sign it into law,” Jindal said in a written statement Friday.
The law, SB 469, has thwarted a levee district in New Orleans’ East Bank – the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E) – from pushing forward with a lawsuit introduced last July against 97 oil and gas companies for damage done to the state’s wetlands. According to the suit, the firms exposed New Orleans to catastrophic damage from hurricanes Rita and Katrina by dredging and cutting thousands of miles of pipes and canals through barrier islands and wetlands which, left intact, would have protected the coastal city, The Times-Picayune Newspaper reports. “We are looking to the industry to fix the part of the problem that they created,” SLFPA-E vice president John Barry told the tri-weekly last year. “We’re not asking them to fix everything. We only want them to address the part of the problem that they created.”
Local Republicans and energy heavyweights, however, viewed the lawsuit as frivolous and “illegal.” “This bill keeps a rogue agency from misrepresenting this State and trying to raise money through illegal actions,” said Senators Robert Adley and Bret Allain, who sponsored the legislation Jindal approved this week.
Adley, who has owned Pelican Gas Management Co. since 1993, was president of ABCO Petroleum from 1972 to 1993, is affiliated with the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, and has been the recipient of an estimated $597,950 in campaign contributions from companies, political action committees and individuals affiliated with, or controlled by, oil and gas interests, was incredulous at claims the industry had harmed the state. “I think it’s absurd to say that the oil and gas industry has damaged the coast,” Republican Adley said. “They did what they were told to do, and a lot of what they have done has helped us, not hurt us.”
Jindal himself is no stranger to oil and gas money, having received at least $545,000 in industry contributions “and most probably more,” according to the Louisiana Voice. Last year, environmental groups claimed that figure was nearly twice as high, saying oil and gas companies had donated $1,019,777 to his campaigns between 2003 and 2013. Don Briggs, president of the Louisiana Oil & Gas Association, called the move a “huge victory for the oil and gas industry,” according to a statement released by the governor’s office.