August 28th, 2013
A coalition of environmentally minded organizations held a press conference this morning to condemn Governor Bobby Jindal's opposition to a local levee authority's lawsuit that seeks coastal restoration payments from 97 oil and gas companies. Condemnation from eco-friendly orgs is nothing new for da' Governor, but this time the groups focused on Jindal's finances. According to the coalition, Bobby J's campaigns have pocketed at least a million dollars from Big Energy since his first run at the Rouge House in 2003.
According to the coalition, at least 36 percent, and possibly as much as 90 percent of Louisiana’s massive wetland loss has been caused by the exploits of the oil and gas industry. The group contends that the energy industry themselves have admitted that non-remediated navigation channels and pipeline canals have radically destroyed the natural coastline.
About a month ago, the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority East filed a massive suit against the oil and gas companies that seeks to recoup payments for 10,000 miles of canal dredging, pipeline and other construction that's harmed coastal wetlands to make way for industry infrastructure.
The Authority has run into firece opposition from the Jindal administration. Less than a day after the suit was fired, the governor issued a statement demanding that the levee authority rescind the suit. He also said the legal proceeding had been "hijacked" by trial lawyers who were looking to make money off the suit.
But for the environmental groups in favor of the lawsuit, it's Jindal's campaigns that have been enriched by the oil industry.
"While the U.S. Treasury has pocketed nearly $200 billion from offshore energy production, a fraction of one percent has been returned to our state for restoration and protection projects," Jindal said on July 25. "... Instead of tying up the future of Louisiana’s coast in court with the benefits only to be reaped by a group of trial lawyers, we believe the better way to direct offshore energy company revenues into Louisiana’s coast is through revenue sharing from offshore energy production."
“The Governor is the Million Dollar Man when it comes to taking money from the oil and gas industry," said Anne Rolfes, Founding Director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade. "We now know why he is against the lawsuit. He is selling out our state so he can raise money for his political campaigns. It’s a scandal on par with the worst this state has ever seen – and we’ve seen a lot.”
The confederation consisting of the League of Women Voters, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, the Sierra Club, the Gulf Coast Restoration Network, Global Green USA, VAYLA New Orleans and the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice at Dillard University spent some time picking apart Jindal's financing.
The group pointed out 231 contributions averaging $4000 from throughout the entire oil and gas industry.
“It would be better if it was only one or two companies because Jindal’s allegiance would only be to those one or two companies," Rolfes said. "Instead, his contributions have come from the entire industry, meaning his obligation is spread throughout the entire industry.”
Rolfes singled out the Helis Oil and Gas Company, a named defendant in the levee board lawsuit, as Jindal's largest contributor ($25,000.) Also named in the lawsuit is the Estate of William G. Helis, who has contributed an additional $5,000. In total, Jindal has received contributions from 12 of the named defendants in the levee board lawsuit, totaling $82,703.99 of the $1,019,777.08 that Jindal has received in all from the oil and gas industry.
The data is sourced to the State Board of Ethics website. The activists were keen to point out that the data on the site does not include private campaign contributions from individuals or federal campaign contributions Jindal may have received during his bout in the Beltway.
“The oil and gas industry boasts how they have donated tens of thousands to schools and different causes, but that is just a drop in the bucket compared to the tens of billions these companies have made at Louisiana’s expense," said Darryl Malek-Wiley, Organizing Representative for the Sierra Club’s Environmental Justice and Community Partnership Program. "Without bringing these companies to the table, the cost of restoring Louisiana’s gulf and wetlands will be passed on to taxpayers.”
Rolfes argued that the federal government refuses to pay for coastal restoration because it is the fault of oil and gas and the State of Louisiana that has allowed it to happen.
“I think that if we finally take responsibility and make those responsible pay their fair share, maybe it would loosen up more federal funds to help out with cost,” she said.
Jindal's office called the press conference "just another tactic" to draw attention to the suit.