A Quick Follow Up
While doing some research for my next post, I came across an interesting item from the great state of Louisiana. As a post-script to That’s Not My Job I’d like to add another example of the government forgetting whose interests they need to serve. Actually, some people did remember. It just prompted a more powerful politician, the state’s governor, to step in and reveal who is really in control of policy in the “Sportsman’s Paradise”.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is in the midst of re-mapping the U.S. Gulf Coast. They are removing over 40 (and still counting) place names from their maps-because they no longer exist. In fact, since the 1930’s, over 1,800 square miles of the Louisiana coast has disappeared beneath the Gulf of Mexico. So many of the islands, inlets, wetlands and other features that used to be a part of the coastal landscape have been wiped away. A large contributor to this re-shaping of the coast has been the carving of transport canals by the oil and gas industry.
The loss of such a large swath of coastline has exposed southern Louisiana to increased risk of flooding from storms. The people who are charged with making policy and taking steps to combat coastal flooding, the state’s flood control boards, have taken steps to hold the oil and gas industry accountable for the consequences of their activities by making them contribute financially to coastal restoration projects. Their diligence has resulted in their removal from their seats on the boards.
…a New Orleans area flood control board filed a lawsuit last year against 97 oil and gas companies, claiming they should fund billions of dollars in coastal restoration projects for their role in wetlands loss. Similar lawsuits by Plaquemines and Jefferson parishes followed. Only a fraction of a $50 billion, 50-year state plan to restore the coast has been funded. The move to make oil and gas companies liable has been fought by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, who refused to re-appoint members of the flood control board involved in the suit.
Sea level rise and the continued loss of coastline will only exacerbate the current flooding threats, so there is some urgency to taking action. To their credit, the flood control boards recognized the necessity for action.
However, in Louisiana, your responsibilities as a public official are apparently not what they may appear to be. Do your job to protect the people and resources of your state and you get fired. How could they have gotten it so wrong? It’s always encouraging to see that when regulators try to fulfill their responsibilities to the people they are obligated to protect, there will always be a politician beholden to a powerful special interest around to set things straight. At least we know the Governor is there to look out for the poor abused oil and gas industry.
A tip of the hat to the folks at the flood control boards who tried to do their jobs and for remembering why they were put in their public positions. Flood control, its right in the title! I guess Governor Jindal didn’t appreciate your dedication. Nobody ever said doing the right thing is easy. Oil and gas money is better spent on catchy stylish commercials and political campaigns than environmental restoration anyway. If you would like to learn a little more about the disappearing Louisiana coastline, you can visit the USGS site here. -Ben Spinelli