If you read the Louisiana Constitution it is evident to most that our elected officials including the Legislature of our State and the Governor are entrusted with setting public policy. They are to work with the Attorney General on enforcement. Unfortunately, Buddy Caldwell, the current Attorney General, decided to turn public policy decisions over to a local levee board so a group of lawyers looking to cash in at the expense of middle class jobs can have access to contracts. They are trying to do an end-around to sue the oil and gas industry.
While people lose jobs and businesses lose revenue, Buddy’s buddies could make off with hundreds of millions of dollars in fees. By law, the State is strictly prohibited from entering into contingency fee contracts, and the AG knows it. But he has allowed a Levee Board to enter into this type of agreement.
I call this policy the BUDDY SYSTEM.
While we all recognize that Louisiana’s coastline has been affected by oil and gas production in the coastal areas of our State, we also agree that the Corps of Engineers and their flood control designs of the last century are an even bigger contributor to our coastal problems.
The oil and gas industry developed the natural resources of our state in accordance with state and federal laws. I believe suing the industry for following the law is asinine. Why is Caldwell allowing it to happen? It is cronyism. It is the BUDDY System.
We should recognize that the need for coastal restoration is already being addressed.
Our Governor, during his term as a Congressman, and both U.S. Senators, were able to get the federal government to recognize Louisiana’s contribution to the Nation’s energy portfolio and that this contribution comes at an ecological cost and, therefore, financial cost to our state.
As a Member of Congress, myself, I was able to convince my colleagues to approve a Bill that would increase Louisiana’s share of the Oil and Gas Royalties flowing into the Federal coffers in recognition of these costs. Congressman Scalise, Senators Vitter and Landrieu are currently pushing this Bill through the Congress. I believe they will be successful in capturing this increased revenue. Our State deserves it.
We also passed the RESTORE ACT through Congress and the President signed this Law that will dedicate the BP Fine money to those States adversely affected by the Deepwater Horizon Spill. Wisely, our State government has put mechanisms in place to insure this money gets dedicated to accomplishing one goal, COASTAL RESTORATION.
All of this revenue is coming from one source: oil and gas exploration. To say that the industry is not paying for or contributing to coastal restoration is foolishness. Furthermore, the oil and gas industry has recognized it is has an obligation to our environment and is currently privately contributing tens of millions of dollars to conservation an environmental efforts within our state. Additionally, the industry provides the State with over $1 billion dollars in direct revenue to address these issues. This doesn’t even account for the indirect revenues generated from sales taxes, incomes and other indirect State revenues.
The point is that there are already mechanism in place – driven by public policy and the elected officials of our state – to deal with the State’s very complex relationship with the oil and gas industry and its presence in this State, as well as its impact on our environment. It is shameful that our Attorney General has decided that his BUDDY SYSTEM is a better approach. I understand the good intentions of the Levee Board. And frankly, they’re not responsible for looking at the bigger picture. That’s the job of our State elected officials, like the Attorney General. He’s supposed to know better.
It is outrageous for the Attorney General to authorize this type of extortion of Louisiana’s coastal erosion and flooding problems. Contingency contracts by the State are prohibited to prevent this type of racketeering. The actions of our Attorney General would turn the State’s coastal protection and flood control issues into an ambulance chasing free for all. It’s bad policy. It’s reckless. And, it’s flat irresponsible.
However, there’s still time. The Attorney General could put an end to this illicit lawsuit. But, that would require him to put the State’s economy, our people’s jobs and the interests of the State ahead of his BUDDIES. Let’s wait and see.