Legislative Updates Archives - Clean Water, Land & CoastClean Water, Land & Coast

‘Without a coast, there is no city’: Landrieu calls for deal with energy companies on coastal restoration

Posted on: June 10th, 2016 by restoreit

The Advocate. Click for story.

In a speech to environmental scientists that described the rapid erosion of the state’s marshes as a threat to the city’s continued existence, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu called Friday for a negotiated settlement — backed by threats of higher taxes or lawsuits — with the oil and gas industry to pay for nearly a century of damage to coastal wetlands.

“I’ll give you the short version of the speech,” Landrieu said as he began. “Without a coast, there is no city.”

In his remarks at the State of the Coast conference in New Orleans, Landrieu both criticized the environmental damage he said the energy industry has wrought and hailed its importance to the state’s economy.

In doing so, he called for an end to the “uneasy bargain” he said has governed the state’s relationship with oil and gas companies since the 1930s — a deference to the industry that he said has contributed to the erosion of about 1,900 square miles of coastal wetlands through policies that are “penny-wise and pound-foolish.”

“I don’t believe we should or we must abandon the industry that has provided us with so much opportunity. We can drill, but we must restore,” Landrieu said.

He endorsed an effort by the state to bring oil and gas companies to the negotiating table, a process tied to coastal damage suits filed by individual parishes. That effort is aimed at working out a deal with the companies to cover the cost of the damage caused by drilling and dredging in coastal areas.

The effort, however, has been rejected by industry groups, which responded to Landrieu on Friday by arguing they already are doing their share for coastal restoration.

“A sincere discussion about addressing Louisiana’s coast doesn’t single out the state’s largest industry,” the Grow Louisiana Coalition, an industry group, said in a news release. “We are working on the coast, not talking about it. As we continue to move forward in that work, federal authorities, including and especially the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as well as the commercial and scientific interests who operate in coastal parishes and the parishes themselves, must play a significant role whenever we talk about big issues, including funding.”

Landrieu also floated another idea that could lead to a similar result: imposing higher taxes on oil and gas companies, with that money funneled toward coastal restoration efforts, in exchange for releasing them from liability for past damage. That proposal echoes a failed plan backed by Republican Gov. David Treen in the early 1980s.

“We can come to a negotiated agreement with the industry. We can come up with a way to fairly tax the industry and put that money to the coast. Or we can engage in a standoff and litigation,” Landrieu said.

Louisiana has been grappling with how to fund coastal restoration efforts, a matter made more urgent as estimates of the cost of its plan have ballooned from $50 billion to $100 billion. Some of that additional money will come from an increased share of federal revenue from drilling activities the state is set to receive. The state also will use money from a legal settlement stemming from the BP oil spill.

Landrieu acknowledged that the industry is not alone in its culpability for coastal erosion. Building of levees along the Mississippi River, subsidence and sea-level rise also have taken a toll.

In calling for a “new covenant” with the industry, Landrieu also suggested a shift to restoration and alternative energy could lead to an economic boom for both energy companies and the state as a whole.

Likening the massive restoration efforts envisioned by the state’s coastal master plan to the Depression-era Works Progress Administration, he said, “I believe there is a great opportunity that can be born from this tragedy we’re now suffering under.”

The Grow Louisiana Coalition, however, pointed to local environmental projects that companies already are engaged in, such as building an artificial reef in Lake Pontchartrain near West End, as well as the money they pay to the federal government to lease drilling sites in the Gulf of Mexico — which will be shared with the state starting next year — as signs the industry “is already doing its part to fund coastal restoration.”

Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.

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Gov. Edwards, AG Landry in uneasy alliance to find coastal settlement as football field of land disappears every hour

Posted on: June 1st, 2016 by restoreit

Clean Water Land & Coast is dedicated to keeping you up to date in the fight to save our coast. Here is an article from The Advocate about the ongoing struggle between Gov. Edwards and Attorney General Landry on Louisiana coastal restoration efforts and settlements in Southern LA and its Parishes. Read the story below.

The Advocate. Click here for story.

Gov. John Bel Edwards and Attorney General Jeff Landry are engaged in an uneasy alliance to try to achieve a major and long-lasting goal: a settlement with oil and gas companies to help restore Louisiana’s eroding coast.

Billions of dollars are at stake — as well as the coastline.

Landry and the governor’s executive counsel, Matthew Block, have held private meetings with coastal parish officials and, at Landry’s request, asked them to not take legal action for 60 days while the attorney general and Edwards try to establish a unified front between themselves and among the parishes. The voluntary 60-day cooling period ends on June 13.

Three parishes — Cameron, Jefferson and Plaquemines — have filed lawsuits accusing oil and gas companies of destroying coastal marsh and wetlands through their drilling activities. Other parishes also are weighing whether to file their own lawsuits, legal sources said. Additional lawsuits could be the stick that brings oil and gas companies to the negotiating table.

Whether the governor and attorney general can forge a working relationship to produce a negotiated resolution on the coastal lawsuits remains an open question. Landry has been aggressively challenging Edwards’ authority on other issues during his first few months as attorney general, including asking the Legislature for his own budget authority, over the governor’s objection.

Some insiders believe that Landry wants a greater say over his spending to have the leeway to hire his own attorneys in the coastal lawsuits.

Political insiders believe that Landry, a Republican, is carving out a distinct role to position himself to run against Edwards, a Democrat, in the 2019 governor’s race, something he has denied. Some of the trial lawyers believe that Landry, who has been close to oil and gas industry officials, is doing their bidding.

A spokeswoman for Landry said he did not have time for an interview.

Block, a trial lawyer from Thibodaux who is now the governor’s executive counsel, said his office and Landry’s are working together harmoniously,

“I don’t believe anyone who attended the meetings would say there was big tension between the attorney general and the governor on this case,” Block said.

Nonetheless, each side has moved to gain the upper hand in the lawsuits, in a sign of the mistrust between them.

Landry convened individual meetings with coastal parish leaders April 12 and 13 at his office in the State Capitol, but he did include Block in each gathering. Landry’s spokeswoman, Ruth Wisher, did not respond to requests for a list of the parishes that attended.

“The intent is to try to bring all of this together and reach some sort of global resolution,” Chris Roberts, an at-large councilman in Jefferson Parish, said in an interview. Roberts missed the meeting because of traffic congestion but was briefed afterward on what happened.

In March, Landry filed a lawsuit to intervene in the lawsuits already filed against the oil and gas industry by Cameron, Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes.

Edwards countered three weeks later by having his secretary of the Department of Natural Resources, the state agency empowered to enforce coastal regulations, also intervene in the lawsuits to ensure he was not left out.

Edwards made the next move by meeting on May 13 with two dozen oil and gas industry lobbyists and attorneys, where he pitched the idea of a settlement.

According to several people present, Edwards told them that restoring the coast would cost about $100 billion over the next 50 years and that oil industry documents showed companies caused at least 30 percent of the damage. The governor also said he does not plan to heed a demand by industry officials by seeking money from the federal government for the construction of the levees that have curtailed sediment-rich flooding from the Mississippi River, flooding that fed the wetlands.

The goal of any settlement discussions, Edwards administration officials believe, is to devise a process that would determine how much damage individual companies caused and to craft a formula to determine how much each one would pay and exactly how that money would be allocated to rebuild wetlands that have disappeared.

Two senior aides to the attorney general attended that meeting in a further sign of cooperation between Landry and Edwards. Also attending was Taylor Townsend, a Natchitoches-based trial attorney and former state House member who is now the governor’s outside counsel on the coastal lawsuits.

The governor has gotten a chilly response, at least publicly, to his effort to generate settlement talks.

“It is evident that the state is seeking to move us into an area of discussion that is impossible,” Don Briggs, the long-time president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, and Chris Johns, the president of the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, which represents the major oil companies, wrote in a letter to Edwards afterward.

Briggs followed that up with an opinion piece Thursday that further stated his antipathy to any settlement discussions.

“Simply put, these lawsuits targeting the state’s number one source of private sector jobs and revenue are based on the misguided premise that some producers violated the terms of their state-issued coastal use permits many years ago, and those activities caused coastal erosion,” he wrote. “In spite of all the rhetoric from a handful of trial lawyers and radical environmental activists making these claims, these lawsuits are completely unnecessary.”

Understanding exactly what will happen next is difficult to divine.

“It seems that there is a chess game going on,” said Mark Davis, the director of the Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy at Tulane. “That suggests to me that something might be afoot. It might provide much-needed dollars for coastal restoration.”

Amid the legal and political sparring, a football field of land disappears every hour, researchers say, adding up to 20 to 25 square miles per year.

The effort to try to resolve the coastal lawsuits through negotiation marks a sharp turnabout from the approach under Gov. Bobby Jindal. He got the Legislature to approve a measure that would kill a similar but different lawsuit filed by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority – East. A state court overturned the law, but a federal court dismissed the lawsuit, although the agency has appealed that ruling.

Nonetheless, the effort to hold the oil and gas companies liable remains very much alive because of the lawsuits filed by the three parishes.

Don Carmouche, a Baton Rouge-based trial attorney, brought the lawsuits in Cameron, Plaquemines and Jefferson along with Phil Cossich, a major trial attorney based in Belle Chasse. Both men attended the meetings with the attorney general and Block that involved those three parishes.

“All of the entities involved — the governor and the attorney general — believe that it’s time to restore the coast,” Carmouche said in an interview. “It’s washing away. Everyone says the major oil companies have some responsibility. They continue to deny their responsibility. Now is the time to do it.”

Not all coastal leaders, however, agree with this view.

Gordon Dove, the president of Terrebonne Parish, said he left the meeting with Landry and Block unmoved in his view that the federal government through its construction of the Mississippi River levees — not the oil companies — is to blame for the coastal loss. He doesn’t see Terrebonne joining with the others to file a lawsuit and noted that the industry is a major employer in his parish.

“They’re going after the oil industry because it has a deep pocket,” Dove said, but he added, “Maybe something can come together where the oil companies will donate money for coastal erosion.”

Benny Rousselle, a Plaquemines Parish council member, came to a different conclusion than Dove after meeting with Landry and Block on April 12.

Two days later, Rousselle pushed the council to reverse a previous decision and to move forward with its lawsuit against the oil and gas companies. The council approved this on a 6-1 vote.

“If discussions are going to be happening related to our parish, we should have a voice at the table,” Rousselle said in an interview, adding that the Carmouche and Cossich law firms have a deeper knowledge of the case than anyone working for the attorney general or the governor.

Carmouche said the firms are not working on a contingency fee basis. A judge would determine how much they receive after determining the amount his clients would get, he said.

St. Bernard Parish is prepared to file its own suit, with its council having voted to hire the Carmouche and Cossich law firms.

Guy McInnis, the parish president, said he and other parish officials are waiting to see where things stand once the cooling off period ends next month.

“We cannot let the state or other parishes have a settlement in their favor and have St. Bernard on the sidelines and not enjoying the benefits of the settlement,” McInnis said.

Jeff Adelson, of The New Orleans Advocate, contributed to this article. Follow Tyler Bridges on Twitter, @TegBridges. For more coverage of government and politics, follow our Politics Blog athttp://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog/.

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Louisiana Environmental Law

Posted on: October 15th, 2015 by restoreit

Louisiana Environmental Law

Environmental Law encompasses all of the effects human activity directly or indirectly cause as a result of altering our environment. These laws are set in place to help protect the environment and the health of associated wildlife and residents. These laws not only seek to eliminate pollution, but also to establish an expectation for preservation of natural resources. Critically, the laws establish also seek to administer responsibility for environmental costs.

Get involved with the restoration and preservation of our Louisiana Coastline by staying informed about Louisiana Environmental Laws. 
louisiana resource regulation laws

History

Environmental law is a relatively new concept, beginning with the national Environmental Protection Act in 1970. The movement to push environmental law is a relatively new concept for the United States. The first environmental law, the Rivers and Harbors Act, was passed in 1899. This law made any entity dumping waste, or filling and dredging canals obtain a permit. After 1899, not much headway was made in the environmental legislature realm until the late 20th century. Some believe modern environmental regulation began with the Santa Barbara Oil Spill in 1969 and others believe it began with the national Environmental Protection Act in 1970.

Federal & State Levels

Environmental legislature can be passed on both the state and federal levels. Because of all of the diacritic wildlife, water transport, and valuable natural resources the state of Louisiana has to offer, it is important to maintain active, encompassing Louisiana environmental laws. In a state full of industrialization and fragile ecosystems, Louisiana environmental law may be one of the most effective solutions for regulating policy and creating standards for environmental practices. The federal laws set in place for environment regulation and control are often broad and arguable- having location-specific laws will help ensure Louisiana will have a cleaner future.

Local Louisiana Regulations

Many Louisiana Environmental Laws have already been passed. Below is a list of active legislature regarding environmental protection in Louisiana.

Louisiana Environmental Quality Act (LEQA)
The Louisiana Environmental Quality Act is perhaps one of the most important regulations passed by the state. The LEQA acknowledges the fact that a safe environment for Louisiana residents is a critical concern. This law regulates maintenance, sanitization, waste management, and the enforcement of such policy. This law also clearly states guidelines for controlling inactive or abandoned hazardous waste sites, nuclear energy, and radiation.

Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Act
One of the more recent acts passed by the state, the Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Act aims to encourage responsible use of coastal resources in conjunction with the beautification, maintenance, and enhancement of our renewable resources. This act was created to minimize or eliminate adverse environmental effects and to sustainably develop the wetlands to help protect the coast against natural disasters.

louisiana environmental laws wildlife

Other notable Louisiana environmental laws include:

Louisiana Code of Environmental Regulations
• Louisiana Administrative Procedure Act
• Louisiana Natural Resources and Energy Act
• Louisiana Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act
• Louisiana Natural Resource Rules

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The Advocate: Louisiana Lawmakers Intervene on Behalf of Taylor Energy Responsible for Decade-Old Oil Leak

Posted on: July 17th, 2015 by restoreit

Read more about how Louisiana senators stepped in to help a New Orleans company that has failed to do anything about a oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico for over a decade. Taylor Energy Company has allowed a leak caused by an underwater mudslide during Hurricane Ivan in 2004 to go unresolved to present day. Senator Bill Cassidy, Senator Mary Landrieu, and Representatives Cedric Richmond and Steve Scalise have all written letters on behalf of Taylor Energy this year requesting that they accept the company’s proposal.

Click Here for the Full Article on The Advocate

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