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Louisiana environmentalists want legislators to vote against bill

There are several bills being presented in the Louisiana House and Senate that could put an end to the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Agency-East's lawsuit against almost 100 oil and gas companies. Governor Bobby Jindal has tried -- unsuccessfully so far -- to get the lawsuit quashed, as has the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association. Now, several environmental groups are trying to persuade legislators not to support such bills.

On Friday, April 4, members from several environmental groups visited three legislators' offices in hopes of garnering support against the bills. The groups represented were the Gulf Restoration Network, the Sierra Club, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade and the Green ARMY. The latter is headed by a retired Army lieutenant general, Russel Honore.

A woman from the Bucket Brigade released a press statement saying, "We are calling on each of these representatives to renounce support for HB 862 and any other bills that would raise the interests of the oil and gas industry above the law." The release was a means of announcing that the members of the environmental groups would be visiting the offices of Representatives Raymond Garofalo, R-Chalmette, Neil Abramson, D-New Orleans and Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette.

The bill that the groups specifically wanted to urge legislators not to support is HB 862, which was actually written by Rep. Robideaux. That bill seeks to mandate that levee authorities and other local governments seek approval from the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources in order to file lawsuits for the damage and injury to the state's coastal areas.

The other bills seek to give the governor more say over how the members of the flood authorities are chosen, put the flood authorities under the governor's control or change the way damage lawsuits can be filed.

Rep. Garofalo said through a spokesman that all of the arguments for and against the bill need to be heard and that "Any position on this legislation at this point would be premature." Rep. Abramson said in a letter that the environmental groups' new release was "an irresponsible media stunt" and that he hasn't decided what his position will be on HB 862.

When seeking action in environmental problems, often the only way to accomplish goals is through litigation. An experienced attorney familiar with environmental laws can be an advocate for those wanting change.

Source: The Times-Picayune, "Environmental groups urge legislators to drop support for legislation prohibiting levee authorities from filing wetland damage suits" Mark Schleifstein, Apr. 04, 2014

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