The Mary Landrieu-Bayou Bridge Lobbying Kerfuffle

From the International Business Times comes a story of some interest regarding Louisiana’s recently-deposed former senator and her relationship to the debate over the construction of the Bayou Bridge pipeline…

A former Democratic U.S. senator from Louisiana has been helping to get an oil pipeline approved while lobbying for a government entity that must sign off on the project before construction.

Mary Landrieu, who represented the state in the Senate from 1997 to 2015, is a registered lobbyist for the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), an entity within the Office of the Governor with a mandate “to develop, implement, and enforce a comprehensive coastal protection and restoration Master Plan.”

But she’s also a paid consultant for Energy Transfer Partners, the majority owner and operator of a proposed crude oil pipeline, which needs CPRA approval before completing the last leg of the project. Landrieu, who has a history of supporting the oil and gas industry, told an angry crowd of Louisiana residents that pipelines are currently the best way to transport crude oil. Shifting away from fossil fuels “might happen one day, but that is not today, so the question before us is how to move this product as carefully as possible,” she said in her role as an Energy Transfer consultant at a Baton Rouge permit hearing on Thursday.

Landrieu is one of many former lawmakers who have taken to lobbying after retiring from Congress. About half of former U.S. senators go through the revolving door into lobbying after leaving office. Landrieu is a federal lobbyist — trying to influence her former colleagues in Washington — with the law firm Van Ness Feldman. She represents a variety of clients including oil and gas company Noble Energy, for which she lobbies on oil and gas exploration, Xavier University and a cigar trade group. In August 2017, Landrieu registered to lobby for the CPRA, and in that year’s third quarter she represented CPRA, “Seeking laws and Executive Branch policies that expedite the permitting of state projects to protect and restore the Louisiana coast.”

Meanwhile, as an Energy Transfer consultant, she’s been making the case for the pipeline’s completion. In January 2017, she began testifying on behalf of Energy Transfer Partners. In February, Landrieu wrote an opinion piece for The Advocate explaining her support for the pipeline.

This sounds like a juicy bit of corruption, but it really isn’t. To believe Landrieu was doing something wrong, or that there was a conflict of interest, you’d have to know that CPRA opposed the Bayou Bridge pipeline. And it doesn’t. An oil pipeline, particularly one inshore, doesn’t have anything whatever to do with the integrity of the coastline – the only argument one might make to that effect would be that since it moves crude oil to refineries it would cause carbon emissions and thus global warming and thus sea level rise. Tell that to the people living near the proposed route of Bayou Bridge, who are going to see low temperatures around 20 degrees tonight.

Obviously Mary Landrieu, good Democrat that she is, isn’t too persuaded by that argument. Neither is the regulatory agency she lobbies for.

Nevertheless, it’s definitely interesting that Landrieu is CPRA’s lobbyist. After all, what’s a Democrat, whose deciding vote gave us Obamacare, doing lobbying a Republican Congress and the Trump administration to get Louisiana appropriations for coastal protection? Wouldn’t somebody like Billy Tauzin or Bob Livingston be a better choice for such a gig?

The answer to that question being that John Bel Edwards isn’t going to have his administration’s dollars spent on Billy Tauzin or Bob Livingston. He’s going to hire Democrats for those gigs wherever he can – even if that means shoveling money to the Landrieu family, as much as he and Mitch Landrieu don’t get along.

But it’ll be interesting to see how much of a mess it turns out to be that Mary Landrieu is seen to have a conflict of interest working for Energy Transfer Partners on Bayou Bridge while catching a check from the state for CPRA work. For our part, there are more persuasive stories of corruption and conflicts of interest than this, but it’s one more example of how the Edwards administration is busy making sure all the taxpayer loot stays in the family.

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