Nathan Gill of Limitless Vistas selects a tree to plant in the Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge near Slidell on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019. Volunteers and members of the the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service planted more than 8,000 trees to help with erosion control in marsh devastated by Hurricane Katrina. The trees are being planted in association with the Bayou Bonfouca Marsh Restoration Project as part of the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act (CWPPRA). During Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, marshes on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain suffered extensive damage from storm surge. The storm inundated barrier marshes with salt water and created avenues for erosion. Since then, the Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Task Force identified areas on the North-shore that are key to protecting coastal communities from storms. CWPPRA completed the Bayou Bonfouca Marsh Restoration project in February 2018. Using sediment pumped from Lake Pontchartrain, the CWPPRA Bayou Bonfouca Marsh Creation project created over 1,000 acres of marsh and high elevation ground that support trees, in which was once open water ponds. Restoration of this wetland area will improve shoreline stability for residents of St. Tammany Parish, and support waterfowl and estuarine fish habitat for future generations. Restoration efforts continue to ensure that the CWPPRA Bayou Bonfouca Marsh Creation project is a success.

I commend New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell and the New Orleans City Council for suing the major oil companies over their decades of damage to Louisiana’s coastal wetlands. The future of New Orleans and coastal Louisiana requires a healthy wetlands environment to defend against dangerous storms and protect our coastal communities.

New Orleans files lawsuit against oil and gas companies, Entergy to pay to restore wetlands

Hurricane Katrina and other recent storms have been more damaging to New Orleans and south Louisiana because of canal-dredging, careless waste disposal and other harmful practices of the oil industry. This must be stopped and reversed, and the state’s political leaders and bureaucracy have failed to do it.

Louisiana is blessed with natural resources, including oil and gas, but our state has lagged behind other states in economic and educational achievement. Oil and gas companies provide jobs for our citizens, but the price we have paid in an eroded coastline — an acre lost every hour, and land loss equivalent to the state of Delaware — has been horrendous.

Chevron asks judge to send New Orleans' coastal land-loss suit to federal court

This is no secret. For decades, scientists have been telling our state’s leaders about the downside of coastal oil and gas development. The industry has bought the silence of our politicians with campaign contributions and donations to educational and cultural institutions. It amounts to pennies on the dollar compared to what the companies owe in environmental damages.

By joining other coastal parishes that are bringing suit against the industry, New Orleans is trying to protect its people and businesses against catastrophic hurricane and flood damage. The city is doing what any homeowner would do if faced with property damage: hold the responsible parties to account.

Yet it is a courageous act. Industry spokesmen, having intimidated the Legislature and other elected bodies, are now trying to close the courthouse door to any entities like New Orleans with the audacity to challenge their political dominance. They are whining about being exposed and voicing the old threats of leaving Louisiana.

Too late. Shell and other major oil firms already sent their white-collar workers to Houston, Dallas and Denver, where many of the defendant companies in the New Orleans lawsuit are based.

The truth is that the major oil companies will leave Louisiana only when they have exhausted our deep reserves of oil and gas. Then we will be left to clean up the mess they have made. Better for Louisiana to negotiate more favorable terms with Big Oil now, while we still have what they want.


Louisiana Public Service Commissioner

Bossier City