Unless you’ve been asleep for the past several months, you’ve no doubt heard about the unfolding drama coming out of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority’s decision to sue 97 oil and gas companies to call them to task for their contributions to the degradation of Louisiana’s coast. The move by the SLFPA was as unexpected as it was paradigm-changing. Perhaps not since Huey Long have oil companies been accused, publicly and by a independent, non-partisan entity, of being anything more than our lord and saviors. Oil has always run Louisiana, like the blood flowing through our state’s veins. The rule of big oil has always been assiduously concealed by the great companies themselves. It’s the great web of influence that operates with a hush behind closed doors.
It’s not the product of ham-handed lobbying or gratuitous campaign contributions. Sure, there’s some of both, but that’s not why oil runs Louisiana. No, oil runs Louisiana because it has captured the cultural, rhetorical, reflexive order of things. You just don’t question it. It’s jobs! It’s our culture! It’s freedom! It’s free enterprise! It’s American energy security! And you don’t say a word. The tyranny of political correctness in Louisiana is that no one may speak ill of oil.
We want some of that there Reform (but not too much).
The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority East certainly wasn’t created to lead a crusade against the oil companies. It was the “good-government” amalgamation of the many corrupt, patronage-heavy Levee boards that operated on the prosperous East Bank of the Mississippi. Like many things post-Katrina, it was an opportunity to disassemble an embarrassing web of cronyism and waste in the New Orleans area. Instead, a “super” board of experts would run the Levee maintenance, controlling millions in millage dollars from the New Orleans-area parishes. Like most good government efforts, it started out with the best of intentions, appointing nationally-recognized experts in relevant fields, along with strongly-credentialed community reps. It promised freedom from “politics,” and “cronyism,” a truly-independent board that cared only about keeping the levee system safe for the millions of residents that count on those earthen barriers to preserve the safety of all they hold dear.
That was before they sued the oil companies. Reform only goes as far as the people who instituted it allow. And in this case, the people of Louisiana just aren’t sure they’re willing to that far. Why? Well, Governor Jindal easily, and without much resistance, removed three of the SLFPA-E’s board members, including acclaimed flood author and main-protagonist John Berry, without a whisper.
Consider that. Governor Jindal ripped three board members from a non-partisan board because he vehemently disagrees with this wholly-correct lawsuit against daddy oil. And he’s transparently done so, without much of a peep from any good government groups. Jindal “demanded” that board drop the suit, and when they didn’t, he decapitated the board, replacing members with anti-suit folks who would march to his orders.
It’s just that easy, when it comes to oil. Lawsuit seeks to repair coastal erosion damage caused by oil cos. Gov demands suit be withdrawn. When independent board (who voted unanimously to sue) refuses, Gov simply begins to remove offending members and replace with compliant ones. And hardly a beat passes. No public outcry. No protests. Just a few environmental groups, the folks that no one in Louisiana pays much attention to, because well, it’s not politically correct to bash big oil.
That’s your good government, gold-standard of ethics, Governor. Oil before holding back water. Oil before everything.