This weekend, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal had a clear choice. He could follow the advice of the state’s attorney general — his fellow Republican Buddy Caldwell — and many other legal scholars. That would mean vetoing a poorly drafted, ill-thought-out measure that came about from Big Oil’s desperation to block legal action that would force it to pay millions to restore the state’s battered wetlands. Or the governor could sign the measure — and prove for once and for all that his fealty is not to the people of Louisiana, but to the millionaire oil and gas executives who write the big checks that fuel today’s GOP.
If you’ve been following Jindal’s administration these last seven years, it won’t shock you which path he took:
Despite frantic warnings from legal experts around the country and from his own attorney general, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal on Friday signed a bill killing a local coastal agency’s lawsuit against the oil and gas industry.
What unnerves the experts is that the bill is so sloppily written that it could undermine other lawsuits against oil and gas interests in Louisiana, including damage claims from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. BP is sure to use the measure as another weapon against claims it’s already fighting in federal court in Louisiana.
The industry knew that it had a friend in Jindal, who has reportedly received more than $1 million in campaign contribution from Big Oil and Gas companies. The governor claims that signing the bill will “help stop frivolous lawsuits and create a more fair and predictable legal environment.” The reality is quite different — as longtime prosecutor and current AG Caldwell pointedly warned Jindal, the new law is so poorly worded that it could end up killing efforts to recover damages from BP and other big-time corporate polluters.
According to state Atty. Gen. Buddy Caldwell and scores of law professors, the measure could nullify lawsuits brought by dozens of local entities and individuals over the Deepwater Horizon spill. That’s because it authorizes only the state Dept. of Natural Resources and parish governments to bring lawsuits over coastal damage.
Federal officials also say they may have to rule on whether the law violates federal laws governing enforcement of coastal regulations.
It’s also a blow against efforts to restore the coastline, the degradation of which has made New Orleans and other local communities more vulnerable to storm damage.
Jindal and the Louisiana Legislature have made a terrible, short-sighted mistake in enacting this bush-league piece of legislation. It will only backfire in the months ahead, as the state’s voters who are still furious over the BP oil spill four years ago come to realize that in their mad rush to protect the oil companies, the politicians accidentally protected the foreign company that decimated the Gulf of Mexico.
I still believe that the electorate will make its voice heard in 2015, when it comes time for the people of Louisiana to elect the man or woman who will take Jindal’s place. The environmental abuses perpetrated on the people of the state are too great for the public to fall once again for the pro-business battle cry of jobs, jobs, jobs…especially since for the most part the jobs are simply not there anyway. The bad news is that the current crew on Baton Rouge is leaving a terrible mess for Jindal’s successor — no matter how responsible — to unravel.
For more information on Jindal’s horrible decision to sign the legislation, please read: http://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-mh-bobby-jindal-20140606-column.html
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