Anti-fracking forces in St. Tammany Parish had a long wait this week for retired Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, who missed a scheduled meeting at the Abita Springs Trailhead on Thursday afternoon. But when the general-turned-environmental-activist did show up at Abita Springs Town Hall that evening during an informational meeting about planned fracking in Mandeville, he was greeted like a hero.
The audience clapped and cheered as Honoré entered, and they occasionally started clamoring to hear from him instead of the panelists or audience members who were holding forth.
Organizers insisted on sticking to the program and said Honoré would speak last.
When he did so, the crowded hall seemed to transform into a tent revival. Honoré exhorted his audience, which eagerly participated in a call-and-response that lambasted fracking for failing to bring better roads, schools or prosperity to the places where it is prevalent.
“Where the hell is the money going?” he asked to roars of approval.
Honoré blasted Louisiana’s laws, which he said are written for the oil and gas industry, and he took shots at U.S. Sens. David Vitter and Mary Landrieu, who he said consistently oppose attempts to strengthen clean air and water legislation because they are beholden to the industry.
Even the lake at the State Capitol is polluted, he said, getting in a dig at Gov. Bobby Jindal, whom he described as going all over the country telling other people how to run things when “the lake next to his kids is damn polluted.”
Louisiana allows energy companies to self-regulate and self-report, he said, and they can even drill a well without being bonded.
“I like my gas in my tank and my oil in my engine, not the bayous,” he said, pointing to the Bayou Corne sinkhole as a consequence of weak regulation.
“We got a lot of road to go, but we started tonight. Your parish government has said no,” Honoré said, alluding to the Parish Council’s vote at another meeting to hire a lawyer to try to stop a planning exploratory fracking well near Mandeville.
“The Green Army is with you,” Honoré said. “The only person who is going to save us is us,” he added, comparing the fight against fracking to the American Revolution.
“It started right here in St. Tammany Parish,” he said. “Let the revolution start here.”
The crowd gave him a standing ovation.
Lawyer asks: Was there another Mann alias?
Lawyer Eddie Castaing thinks he may have found another federal prosecutor who was fond of posting pseudonymous commentary at nola.com.
Or, more accurately, another alias for an already unmasked ex-fed. Castaing — who has been trying for months to make a case for throwing out the charges against his client, Stacey Jackson, on the basis of prosecutorial misconduct — filed a motion Friday seeking to subpoena nola.com for information about the commenter “kefir.”
While he didn’t name his quarry directly, it was clear from his seven-page motion that he believes the commenter is former First Assistant U.S. Attorney Jan Mann, who in 2012 admitted posted at nola.com as “eweman” and resigned her post.
Castaing’s hunch is based largely on three posts: One was about Jackson and was written in a style that vaguely resembles a legal memo and mentions the federal prosecutions of former City Councilman Oliver Thomas and political operative Stan “Pampy” Barre.
The other two suggested the writer lived in the same part of Old Metairie as Mann. One mentioned the death of a neighbor, former basketball great Red Robbins, and the other warned of a “dangerous spot” on nearby Metairie Road. “Kefir” also listed his or her home ZIP code as 70005, which includes Old Metairie.
Castaing writes that “the inference is strong enough to justify, in good faith, an investigation into the identity of ‘kefir.’ ”
Castaing recently succeeded in persuading a judge to order nola.com to turn over information about two other commenters whom Castaing suspected might have been federal law enforcement officials. U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Wilkinson, who is reviewing those materials, has determined that one of Castaing’s targets, “jammer1954,” was not a fed, but his review of “aircheck” is ongoing.
Castaing’s motion says he asked nola.com to provide the information about “kefir” voluntarily, but an attorney for the website said it would not do so. Nola.com also resisted Castaing’s efforts to get identifying information about “aircheck” and “jammer1954,” but it lost a court battle and ultimately had to turn the data over.
Mandeville mayor, council spar
Fireworks between Mandeville Mayor Donald Villere and members of the City Council — which often erupt during the council’s marathon meetings — spilled into written form this week after Villere sent a caustic message to all who receive the council’s agenda by email.
What sparked Villere’s disdain was an item up for consideration that would encourage the city’s citizen Financial Oversight Committee, known by its initials MFOC, to research and suggest possible items to be included in next year’s budget.
“The council should be asking their committee to look into financial matters the council wants, not the other way around,” Villere wrote in his email. “It appears the council reports to the MFOC. Who is really doing the council’s job?”
Villere’s missive earned a quick response from Councilman Ernest Burguieres, who asked why the committee shouldn’t make suggestions to the council.
Villere responded less than an hour later.
“You missed the point,” he wrote. “The council should be asking their committee for specific work to be performed. Guess the council doesn’t need them.”
A day later, Councilman Clay Madden — a frequent Villere foe — chipped in.
“I think it is you who has missed the point,” he wrote, chiding Villere for referring to the MFOC as the council’s committee. “You choosing not to participate does not make the committee the council’s committee.” The mayor sends friend and former Councilman Jerry Coogan to MFOC meetings as his representative.
Madden added that he felt sure the committee would welcome the mayor’s participation and that he looked forward to working with the mayor through the budgeting process.
Villere and Burguieres have a history of verbal sparring, especially over the city’s budget. One argument last year got so heated that Burguieres challenged the mayor to have him arrested and thrown out of a meeting. Villere has called Burguieres “an expert in character assassination.”
Compiled by staff writers Sara Pagones, Gordon Russell and Faimon A. Roberts III.