Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The governor needs to stop being "reasonable"

The state needs to just go ahead with its lawsuit against the oil and gas industry.  The opposition is dug in and is never going to meet us halfway. In this Lens Op-Ed Anne Rolfes describes the oil lobby's recalcitrance in comparison to what she terms Governor Edwards's "reasonable" though ineffectual hope for a negotiated settlement.
Edwards would rather not sue. Time and again he has said his preference is for oil companies to meet him at the table and negotiate a settlement. This is a reasonable path, but instead the industry cries war. The oil and gas group casts the governor as a villain who has set greedy lawyers upon them.  Any mention of why our coastline is destroyed conveniently omits causation. “Save the coast,” is the vacuous cry that the oil industry has heartily promoted.

Refusing to honestly address the problems oil and gas extraction has caused is a recurring theme. Ask the industry to reduce pollution and it will roll out an opinion piece, like the one in which the Louisiana Mid Continent Oil and Gas Association depicts itself as an industry hogtied by regulation and law.

In fact, the opposite is true. The laws that regulate pollution are not enforced. When the inspector general of the Environmental Protection Agency, the regulator of on-shore facilities,  reviewed enforcement of environmental laws throughout the nation, he found enforcement in Louisiana to be the worst. One of the reasons is cited on page 16: “a culture in which the state agency is expected to protect industry.”
The state's only recourse at this point is to press on with legal action against the oil and gas industry. The case has enough merit, anyway. Last week, John Barry wrote in the Advocate that "the industry has no actual defense." 
This has become laughable. The very existence of coastal Louisiana is at stake, Governor John Bel Edwards wants the oil and gas industry to restore the part of the coast it destroyed, and the industry responds by attacking the attorneys he wants to hire.

Of course that shouldn’t surprise anyone. The industry has no actual defense, so it needs to distract. Let’s look at the issue point by point, starting with causes of the problem.The industry’s minions blame levees for land-loss, and levees do cause damage. But industry has, too — and in some areas of the state industry is the biggest cause. Don't take my word for it.

Ask oil industry scientists. In 1972 a study by pipeline companies concluded that every mile of pipeline causes the loss of 54 acres of land, and industry has dredged thousands and thousands of miles of pipelines and canals. In 1989, a study by the Louisiana Mid-continent Oil and Gas Association, the trade association for major oil companies, examined the area of the state with the worst land-loss and concluded that "the overwhelming cause" of that land loss was industry operations. In 2001 the U.S. Geological Survey oversaw a study including industry scientists which concluded 36 percent of land loss was caused by industry. And many scientists believe industry caused a much higher percentage of the land loss.
Of course, if your strategy is to dig in and distract, it helps to have political players on your side. It helps when the Attorney General is willing to intervene in the process on your behalf. It helps when local parish officials are so cowed by oil money that they refuse to lend their voice to the cause. And it helps tremendously when a Democratic Senate candidate refuses to back the effort.
Caroline Fayard, also a Democrat, noted that she is an attorney but said that she doesn’t think suing the oil and gas companies was the solution to restoring lost land.

Lawsuits are expensive and time-consuming, she said, and provide no guarantee of results.
Fayard, by the way, is the daughter of a wealthy civil attorney whose fortune derives from involvement in various high profile environmental lawsuits. Specifically it derives from his ability to subtly play both sides of the fence in these scenarios. Most recently, American Zombie detailed how this worked during the BP settlement process.  The Fayards also benefit from their cozy relationships in state and national politics.  But much more on that later. Suffice to say for now that it's laughable to see Caroline positioning herself against the governor's lawsuit here. Especially so when in her campaign appearances and literature she emphasizes her role in the BP negotiations. Here, for example, is a push poll where Fayard's candidate bio describes her as "a civil justice attorney and small businesswoman who took on BP and helped negotiate the state settlement."  But  Senators have a different set of priorities than trial attorneys sometimes. Or at least they're paid differently.

In Louisiana they're also paid to deny that humans (specifically humans in the fossil fuels business) are responsible for climate change. At the forum,  according to the Advocate, "Fayard also said that climate change is real but did not pin blame." Unfortunately, as we've noted previously, this is also the governor's ridiculous position. Apparently, this is what the conventional wisdom of state politics tells us it means to be "reasonable."  John Bel really needs to stop that.

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