Grace Notes: There’s irony in where Louisiana odd couple Jeff Landry, John Bel Edwards find common ground _lowres

Advocate staff photo by Brenden Neville EPA environmental scientist Ken Teague inspects a recently formed marsh island, part of a freshwater diversion project to counteract coastal erosion, during a tour for federal and state coastal restoration representatives hosted by Plaquemines Parish on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011.

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards and Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry are just five months into their new jobs, but already they’ve established a pattern of jockeying for power and position.

The list of issues where they’ve tangled grows longer by the day. Landry tried to get friendly legislators to give him authority over his own budget, a proposal Edwards said he’d veto if it reached his desk. They’ve clashed over how to spend millions of dollars from the BP oil spill settlement.

And they frequently find themselves at odds over matters that push partisan buttons. Landry opined that Edwards’ executive order banning discrimination based on “gender identity,” among other attributes, is not legally binding, while the governor accused the attorney general of overstepping his authority. Landry echoed a national anti-immigrant initiative when he pushed a failed legislative effort to crack down on so-called sanctuary cities; Edwards said the effort gave him serious concerns.

So the possibility that the two might be working together in pursuit of a global settlement over the oil and gas industry’s liability for the state’s disappearing wetlands is genuinely head-scratching.

Yet according to a detailed update by The Advocate’s Tyler Bridges, Edwards and Landry seem to have formed an uneasy partnership to try to bring the powerful industry to the table and leverage a contribution toward what Edwards has said is a $100 billion job over 50 years. In private meetings, the governor has cited research showing oil and gas exploration caused at least 30 percent of the damage.

Among the many reasons observers might not have seen this coming is the two officials’ backgrounds. Edwards ran for office with support of the state’s plaintiff bar, including lawyers who are representing parishes that have already filed coastal restoration suits. Landry has been a vocal backer of the industry; while serving in Congress, he once held up a “drilling=jobs” sign during an official address by President Barack Obama.

Although both have convened meetings and say they’re talking to one another, it’s still not entirely clear how each sees the complicated negotiations unfolding. Edwards and Landry probably remain at least somewhat on guard, and the same surely goes for the many other players in the mix, from industry officials, to the parish leaders who have and many still sue, to the lawyers themselves.

Still, how ironic it would be if Louisiana’s dwindling coastal landmass is where these two finally find a bit of common ground.

‘Grace notes’ is a daily feature by Advocate columnist Stephanie Grace. To read more of her content, including her full columns, click here.