Jindal leaves the polluted waters of Louisiana to test the political waters in Iowa


It’s been a pretty stressful month down here in Louisiana. Folks in communities like Braithwaite over in Plaquemines Parish are still trying to dry out from Hurricane Isaac, which was the worst storm to batter these parts in the last four years, flooding about 13,000 homes, causing an estimated $1.5 billion in storm damage, and stirring up a ton of BP oil that’s still out there in the Gulf. And we’re still technically in the worst part of what’s been a very active hurricane season. The State is also suffering from all the oil that washed up from Hurricane Issac and is awaiting a disaster from the Bayou Corne sinkhole where a massive salt cavern has been used to dispose of radioactive hazardous waste.

So Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal instead of visiting with these victims, thinks this is a perfectly good time to test the waters elsewhere — the political waters, that is, far from the balmy Gulf currents.

According to the New York Times editorial board:

Two years ago, in what should have been a quiet judicial retention election, Iowa voters threw out three State Supreme Court justices for taking seriously their duty to protect fundamental rights. The three had provoked right-wing wrath for joining a unanimous 2009 ruling overturning the state’s prohibition on same-sex marriage. Conservative forces succeeded in ousting them by tapping antigay sentiment and attacking “activist” judges. Those same forces — aided openly this time by the state’s Republican Party — are now calling for the removal of David Wiggins, another capable judge who joined in the marriage decision.

This is a battle over the future of a fair and independent judiciary. And the battle is taking a new turn. Two prominent Republican politicians, Bobby Jindal, the Louisiana governor, and Rick Santorum, the winner of January’s Republican presidential caucuses in Iowa, will be joining a four-day “No Wiggins” bus tour of 17 Iowa communities scheduled to kick off Monday in Des Moines.

Its organizers plainly hope that these two well-known politicians will encourage a big turnout by the party’s conservative base, which might also help Mitt Romney’s chances in the state and the Republicans’ effort to win control of the State Senate. The Republican mobilization in the anti-retention operation will require a highly visible and forceful campaign on Mr. Wiggins’s behalf.

The Iowa jaunt is just part of an extended holiday that Jindal is taking. It starts with two days meeting with his fellow Republican governors in Georgia, and it concludes with a speech to the Republican Party of Pennsylvania — whose values, which include letting frackers run amok with little or no taxes and funneling millions of tax dollars toward religious schools that refuse to teach evolution, are pretty much identical with those of Jindal. And just last week, he was jetting around Montana and Indiana, raising money for reactionary fellow Republicans.

Here’s the thing: It’s not just that Jindal’s reason for hooking up with Rick Santorum — to try to force a sitting judge from office is repulsive to me, and to an increasing number of voters across the country. It’s also because he does this when the state that he allegedly governs, Louisiana, is a big mess. And a lot of that is because it’s his administration that is in bed with someone it shouldn’t be: Big Oil and Gas.In June, Jindal signed off on a draconian budget plan

that will do harm to Louisiana residents across the board. It included $321 million in cuts to basic education and another $81 million reduction for higher education, even as Jindal funneled millions of dollars into his voucher scheme to support religious and private schools.

It didn’t have to be that way. At the same time, Jindal — just like his fellow Republican governor Tom Corbett in frack-happy Pennsylvania — refuses to bring levies on natural gas drilling in line with other states, even as fracking activity increases exponentially across our Sportsman’s Paradise. He also refuses to support an oil and gas processing tax which would, like Texas, levy taxes on the billions of dollars’ worth of oil and gas flowing from offshore in the Gulf of Mexico through Louisiana. I guess he figures it’s his last term and he will need the millions of dollars of campaign funding from these sources when he runs for president in four years.

 Here’s what Jindal had to say when pressed on the natural-gas tax last year:

Gov. Bobby Jindal says there’s no chance that he would sign into law any change in a tax exemption affecting natural gas drilling in Louisiana’s shale formations.

Under a 1994 law, the energy industry has been exempted from paying about $220 million in gas severance taxes from production in the Haynesville Shale of northwestern Louisiana.

The exemption covers a technique in shale exploration known as horizontal drilling.

After speaking to the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil & Gas Association in New Orleans today, Jindal says repealing or lowering the exemption would simply drive energy companies – and their jobs – to shale formations in other states.

Not that it’s a major surprise or anything, but Jindal has been in the tank for Big Oil since Day One of his administration. That’s been particularly true over in the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, which under Jindal has displayed no quality whatsoever — botching major public health crisis from toxic leaks in Baton Rouge and in the floodwaters in Plaquemines Parish to the sinkhole in Bayou Corne which has become a major catastrophe under his watch.

Instead, Jindal disappears from the state to block gay marriage in the cornfields of Iowa. This is a disgrace. Lousiana’s governor has no right to test the political waters for 2016 — not when the waters at home are still so polluted.

 To read the New York Times editorial on Jindal’s efforts in Iowa to oust a pro-gay-marriage judge, go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/24/opinion/politics-principle-and-an-attack-on-the-courts.html?_r=0

 To read more about Jindal’s refusal to tax natural gas drilling in Louisiana, please go to: http://neworleanscitybusiness.com/blog/2011/03/24/jindal-no-change-to-natural-gas-tax/

© Smith Stag, LLC 2012 – All Rights Reserved

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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