State Senator Gerald Long of Louisiana calls it “kind of a gentlemen’s agreement.”
For the generations since Mr. Long’s third cousin Huey P. Long was the governor, this state has relied on the oil and gas industry for a considerable part of its revenues and for tens of thousands of jobs. In return, the industry has largely found the state an obliging partner and staunch political ally as it has fought off curbs on its business.
Now, however, a panel of state appointees, created after Hurricane Katrina to be largely insulated from politics, showed just how insulated it was by upending the agreement.
In July, the panel, the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East, composed primarily of engineers and scientists charged with managing flood control for most of New Orleans and its suburbs, filed a lawsuit against nearly 100 oil and gas companies. The suit argues that these companies unlawfully neglected to fix decades’ worth of damage they caused to the state’s wetlands, thus making flooding from hurricanes more dangerous and flood protection vastly more expensive.
The reaction was swift. Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, immediately called the suit “nothing but a windfall for a handful of trial lawyers,” prompting local activists to highlight the $1 million he has received in donations from oil and gas interests. But at public meetings here and down on the bayou, the board...
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