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December 2013 Coastal Scuttlebutt

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DECEMBER THIRTIETH

Mary Landrieu doing her thing in the US Senate

Mary Landrieu doing her thing in the US Senate

On December 18 Bruce Alpert reported in nola.com/The Times-Picayune that our senior Senator Mary Landrieu would be in line to chair the Senate Energy and Environment Committee, if and when when Sen. Max Baucus becomes the next ambassador to China during 2014.

This is an extremely important story from a coastal standpoint and one that should improve the likelihood of Mary’s being reelected to a third term…even as a card carrying member of the dying breed of Democratic statewide elected officials in the South. Her principal opponent is Representative Bill Cassidy (R-Baton Rouge), who has virtually no coastal record. The good Dr. Cassidy, who voted to shut the government down with Ted Cruz’s allies, would have NO standing in a majority Democratic senate and virtually none in a GOP majority senate.

Mary’s interest in and passion for the coast and her record are unquestionable but she’s long walked a political tightrope. This is especially true now, given the ongoing Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity campaign to paint her as an Obama puppet.

It’s perhaps a testament to Mary’s political adroitness that our beleaguered senator is now being pilloried by the left as well as the right. This post in the Daily Kos by an unnamed and uninformed author naively portrays Mary as the nemesis of environmental causes in general and specifically a foe of action on climate change. It’s so easy to be a purist if you don’t understand basic Louisiana politics and you don’t comprehend the profound environmental impact of a complete takeover of Bayou State politics by Republicans like David Vitter, who harbors no passion for the coast…or for any other environmental issue. The Daily Kos should be ashamed of this post.

DECEMBER FOURTEENTH

Legislative Auditor further muddies the water over the  oil and gas industry lawsuit

I challenge anyone, attorney or not, to interprtet the rationale of an opinion issued Thursday by the Louisiana state legislative auditor Daryll Purpera on the merits or demerits of the lawsuit brought by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E) against 97 oil and gas companies that have damaged the coast. Mr. Purpera said that t he’s not qualified to rule, leaving the disputed legality of the suit unsettled but certainly not seriously challenged.

Lauren McGauphy  reported today in NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune on Purpera’s opinion, which lawsuit opponents had hoped would  stop the suit in its tracks. Mr. Purpera eliminated his office from responsibility for the  hot potato by recommending seeking an opinion in the courts.

It’s fascinating to see various state agencies waffling on this issue, including the Attorney General’s Office, the Governor’s Office and key members of the state legislature.   Were the suit to be successful billions of industry dollars could be brought to bear on ‘fixing’ the coast, The fSLFPA-E will meet on Thursday, December 19 to discuss its implications of the non-opinion and its next move but I chalk this up as a victory for the pro-suit side.


DECEMBER EIGHTHrainforest

Mapping deforestation with Google Earth

Tim McDonnell posted a striking article with climate change implications in Slate.com, one on the alarming rate of global deforestation and one on the reduction in one of the greenhouse gases

…the Earth lost about 888,000 square miles of forest between 2000 and 2012, roughly the area of the U.S. east of the Mississippi River.

The deforestation piece is the work of University of Maryland geographer Matthew Hansen.and it has been published in Future Tense. No word on whether Hansen is kin to distinguished climate change authority Jim Hansen.

Photo of lone tree from deforested area in Amazon basin from Slate.com by Mario Tama/Getty Images

DECEMBER FOURTH

On December 3 the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) held its monthly

Garret Graves

Garret Graves

meeting, with a typically long and daunting agenda, in which items of great interest were as usual randomly scattered among routine issues. This tactic effectively discourages public participation. The official agenda read as follows and I took the liberty of highlighting in blue four topics of high interest to me:

A. West shore update – Col. Richard Hansen & Tom Holden, USACE 

B. Restore Council Activities – Justin Ehrenwerth, Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council

C. Discussion on Lawsuit Filed by SLFPA-E

D. Update on Expert Panel on Diversion Planning and Implementation – Dr. Chip Groat, President & CEO of The Water Institute of the Gulf

E. Announcement of CPRA Applied Research Program and the Coastal Innovation Partnership Program – Rick Raynie, CPRA

F. NFWF Update – Kyle Graham, CPRA

G. FY2015 CPRA Annual Plan Update – Kyle Graham, CPRA

H. FY2014 Conservation and Restoration Partnership Fund – Stuart Brown, CPRA

I. Presentation of FY2015 Atchafalaya Basin Annual Plan – Don Haydel, CPRA

J. Biggert-Waters National Flood Insurance Program Update – Charles Sutcliffe, Office of the Governor

K. Potential Litigation Against U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Executive Session – Motion and Public Discussion –

L. Public Comment Update on Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill / NRDA / Response – Alyson Graugnard, CPRA Attorney

M. RESTORE Act Update, Oil Spill Impact Comments – Cameron Long & Chris Barnes, Office of the Governor

N. Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill / NRDA / Response / RESTORE Act Public Comment Period

O. Public Comment

Mark Schleifstein reported on the meeting in NOLA.com and his article focused on a lawsuit being brought against the corps by the state of Louisiana (agenda item K). This suit primarily involves a disagreement over responsibility for cost sharing a $3 billion restoration plan to mitigate coastal damages caused by the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) project.

Earlier in the meeting, item C involved the much more controversial lawsuit already brought by the SLFPAE against 97 oil and gas companies for coastal damage caused by decades of energy production. During that discussion CPRA chairman Garret Graves reiterated once more his adamant opposition to the suit that he claims is jeopardizing the entire coastal program. He gave John Barry a few minutes at the microphone to justify his position

Once again I was unable to attend the meeting but I was indeed fortunate to have a dispassionate observer in the audience in the form of my lovely and perceptive wife Guille Novelo. She’s neither a scientist nor a journalist but she noted that the discussion of item C was overtly disdainful of Mr. Barry and it included unnecessary sarcasm on the part of some CPRA members, with body language inappropriate to a professional meeting on such serious subjects.

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  3. At the risk of sounding redundant, this is what is needed to give the right people traction:

    “Morton responded by saying that they could not expect government to fix all the Bay’s problems. “There is a great need,” he said, “for a private-sector organization that can represent the best interests of the Chesapeake Bay. It should build public concern, then encourage government and private citizens to deal with these problems together.” more: http://www.cbf.org/about-cbf/history

    If the Atchafalaya is the biggest swamp in the States and 40% of all the salt marsh in the contiguous US states is right here, then why do places like the Chesapeake Bay area get all the support? To get traction, we need to do what they have done… Keep up the good work.

  4. “I challenge anyone, attorney or not, to interprtet the rationale of an opinion issued Thursday by the Louisiana state legislative auditor Daryll Purpera on the merits or demerits of the lawsuit.”

    Sorry, Len, but you lose the challenge.

    He did no such thing. He only said it wasn’t his place to rule on “the validity of a contract between a local levee board and the lawyers representing it in a lawsuit against 97 oil and gas companies” He’s quite correct; that question really “is a matter for the courts and not the Legislative Auditor’s Office, according to Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera.”

    The merits of the suit are a totally different question, one NO ONE asked him to review.

    • I should know better than to offer challenges.

      • Don’t feel bad. There’s a ton of nonsense every day which should NOT take a JD to see through. Just compare virtually anything written about the duck guy in the last two weeks with the actual article in GQ and even a Cassidy basher ought to be able to see the gaps between the actual versus the assigned.

  5. Len, as always I enjoy reading your post.

    Of course CPRA is disdainful of Mr. Barry, they’re a bureaucracy and he’s an individual. CPRA can’t afford to facilitate meaningful public discourse about their decisions, it could dilute political power or reduce the ability to manipulate expenditure. Now that he’s just a mere citizen, Mr. Barry seems human, vulnerable and willing to continue speaking his truth. Just the kind of person I like. I have nothing against Mr. Graves personally, but he’s a figure head for a political agenda, and that leaves less room for authentic conversation with the public. The authority represented by Mr. Graves has the power to squash the suit. Mr. Barry has the power to disclose the duplicity of CPRA for claiming to want public input it really doesn’t want. The suit will be legally murdered by bruit, political force and Mr. Barry, by being himself, will raise the question about the real cost of restoration.

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