I’m very disappointed with the federal court decision letting major oil companies off the hook for damaging Louisiana’s coastal wetlands.
ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, British Petroleum and other companies may be happy that they again avoided liability for helping to erode our coastline, but the people concerned about this issue aren’t smiling.
Some politicians claim that Louisiana is better off for the ruling by the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stopping the 2013 lawsuit by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East, but the facts are not on their side. The oil industry’s own studies admit that decades of drilling, canal-dredging and other coastal activities caused a significant part of Louisiana’s disastrous loss of coastline, which continues to this day.
U.S. Rep. Garret Graves of Baton Rouge is the latest in a long line of Louisiana elected officials to choose Big Oil over the public interest. He called the levee board lawsuit “a distraction” from more constructive efforts to protect the wetlands.
Before he was a congressman, Graves was in charge of coastal restoration for Gov. Bobby Jindal. One would think a person with his background would praise the levee board for its groundbreaking effort to force the oil industry to pay its share for damaging our coastline.
But Mr. Graves still toes the Jindal party line, heaping criticism on the New Orleans levee board and offering other lame excuses for why its lawsuit should not be heard. If it were me, I would give the levee board a medal. The board has shown courage in taking on the powerful oil companies that have ruled Louisiana for a century. Our massive problem of coastal erosion won’t be fixed until Louisiana faces it squarely, without favor to any special interest. The hypocrisy of Graves and other politicians protecting Big Oil is plain to see. If you were to tear up his front yard, watch how quickly he would present you a bill for the damage.
Is it too much to ask that he show the same concern for our state? Why let oil companies ignore their legal commitments to fix what they break when they produce oil and gas off our coast? Could it have something to do with campaign contributions to these same elected officials? Have ExxonMobil, BP and Shell bought our politicians with pennies when they owe our state billions for the damage they have done?
It’s popular now to say you are for coastal restoration, but ask most Louisiana politicians about industry’s role in wetland loss and watch them tap-dance. Even the companies say they are for restoration — just don’t ask them to pay. Get the money from government, they say. There’s only one problem: Taxpayers in Kansas, Nebraska, South Carolina and New Hampshire didn’t drill for oil off our coast. Why should they pay?
And remember all the hollering about BP after the Deepwater Horizon spill? As damaging as it was, it doesn’t compare to the loss of 700,000 acres of land. Louisiana coastal erosion is a test of our political leadership, and the politicians are failing us. We should expect the oil companies to duck responsibility. They answer to shareholders and will only do what they are forced to do.
Until we face these facts, stand up for our state, and demand that our politicians represent us rather than the special interests, Louisiana will continue to suffer and lose coastline. Just last week U.S. News & World Report ranked us 50th in its “Best States” survey. We deserve better.
Foster Campbell is a member of the Louisiana Public Service Commission.