Back when he was in the Legislature, Gov. John Bel Edwards fought against an ultimately successful move to kill the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority - East’s landmark environmental lawsuit against 97 oil and gas companies.
As a candidate, Edwards benefited from the efforts of a big-money Super PAC tied to the lawyers behind a related set of lawsuits by several parishes, which, like the SLFPAE suit, sought money from the powerful industry to remediate coastal land loss associated with oil and gas production. The Louisiana Water Coalition PAC, backed by the Talbot, Carmouche & Marcello law firm, ran ads reminding voters of opponent David Vitter’s prostitution scandal.
And after he was elected, Edwards said he planned to ask the industry to help pay for coastal restoration — and suggested he’d be willing to play hardball if those conversations don’t go so well.
“They say that they will respond but didn’t want to have to do it through litigation, so we’ll give them an opportunity,” Edwards said, adding that “I firmly believe that if there isn’t at least some implicit understanding that litigation follows an unsuccessful negotiation, there is not going to be a successful negotiation.”
Now that Edwards is in office, though, it looks like the relationship between the administration and the industry may not be as adversarial as it once shaped up to be.
Edwards is already starting to refill his campaign account, and it turns out that oil and gas interests are perfectly happy to help. Several major industry associations have sponsored fundraisers for Edwards, and he’s offered friendly words at their events.
“Our fortunes are tied together,” Edwards said at a recent meeting of the Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association.
Explaining the newly friendly dynamic, Chris John, a former congressman who is now the group’s president, struck a pragmatic tone.
“After the race is over, you have to sit down and work with him,” John said. “I have to have a relationship with whoever is governor. It’s kind of how the whole process works.”
Call it a post-election turnabout. Or maybe just call it a lesson straight out of Politics 101: No matter your differences, it never hurts to have friends in high places.
‘Grace notes’ is a daily feature by Advocate columnist Stephanie Grace. To read more of her content, including her full columns, click here.