The Louisiana Governor and Big Oil’s Slippery Slope

It’s an incredible moment in Louisiana. Our Governor, at great political risk, has stepped forward to say that the oil industry should repair the damage it has done to our Louisiana coast. Here’s his reasoning as documented in the New Orleans Times Picayune.

"I don't know that we are going to be well-received by the folks in Congress when we go ask taxpayers from Iowa and elsewhere around the country to chip in to help us pay for the cost of coastal restoration," our Governor said.

Governor John Bel Edwards was making the point that our requests for federal aid for coastal restoration will ring hollow unless we do our part: hold the oil industry accountable for its destruction.

The oil industry has acknowledged that its operations played a significant role in coastal loss, and Hurricane Katrina provided a crash course in the need for a healthy coast and wetlands that protect us from storms. But the oil industry, through efforts like the Americas Wetlands Foundation, has done a masterful public relations job.  Thanks to their duplicity and the willingness of civic, academic, business and elected leaders to go along with the oil industry’s snow job, the call to “save our coast” has been remarkably divorced from the reality of just why our coast is destroyed.

Governor Edwards is now leading on this issue. We’ve known about the problem for decades, yet it is only this Governor who has stepped forward to say the obvious: that the oil industry should pay for the damage it has done to our coast. If the industry won’t do so willingly, Governor Edwards says the state will sue.

It is a remarkable moment, one worth pausing for and noticing. The Louisiana Governor is standing up to the oil industry. The Louisiana Governor is standing up to the oil industry. The Louisiana Governor is standing up to the oil industry. This isn’t just some dream. It is reality.

The odds against Governor Edwards are daunting. All the money and political might that the industry can muster will be used against him. The Grow Louisiana coalition, a faux grassroots group funded by the oil industry, has already started. Its TV ads feature good ol’ boys – hunters and fishermen with Cajun accents -  praising the industry for all they do for our state. There is no mention of the canals they didn’t fill in, no mention of the miles of channels they carved in our wetlands, no mention of the subsidence that has accelerated because of industry activities.  These ads, now friendly, will no doubt turn viscous as our Governor continues to take a stand.

The oil industry realizes it’s teetering on the edge of a slippery slope, for the vacuous “save the coast” isn’t the only falsehood it peddles. Industry leaders deny the impacts of climate change and pollution. Look no further than Don Briggs, the President of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association. In an opinion piece after the recent flooding in south Louisiana, he ignored the fact that scientists – including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - attributed the flooding in our state to the warming of our planet. This warming is directly attributable to the burning of his product. Mr. Briggs’ piece is full of outrage that we environmentalists would dare to point out that drilling = flooding. We point it out because it’s true. 

The fact is that the oil industry has created many problems for Louisiana and for the planet. Like climate change. And the 42,000 oil spills in our Gulf of Mexico over the last 40 years.  And our destroyed coast.

The oil industry is fighting the Governor despite the facts. People like Don Briggs know that if the truth gets out about the coast, other truths may follow. And then their whole story about their benevolence in Louisiana and how great the industry has been for our region will unravel.