MAGINNIS: Local Lawsuits More to Jindal’s Liking

There is a good reason why Gov. Bobby Jindal responded so calmly to Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes suing dozens of oil companies for coastal damage, compared to his ballistic reaction to a similar suit filed earlier by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East.

Yes, the parishes’ suits are brought by elected local officials instead of an appointed board. And yes, the parishes don’t have eye-popping contingency-fee contracts with their attorneys as the flood authority does.

But the most compelling reason why the governor does not repudiate the parishes’ legal action against Big Oil is that it’s what he has been waiting for.

The governor has been heavily criticized by environmental and civic groups for his offensive against the SLFPA-E board, including effectively removing its vice chairman, author John Barry, the eloquent and credible public voice for the legal cause. Jindal was seen to be protecting the interests of the oil companies, when, actually, the interests he was protecting were his own. The unilateral action by the appointed state board, out of line with state policy toward the coast and the industry, was an intolerable affront to the power of the governor. Not to mention that, if the suit succeeded, Barry, not Jindal, would get the credit.

While the governor may seek to quash the flood authority’s lawsuit, his action should not be mistaken for is siding with the oil companies.

There are aha! moments and there are uh-oh moments. The latter came for oil firm attorneys and executives during the 2012 legislative session when they grew alarmed that Jindal did not back their legislation to rein in the plague of so-called oilfield legacy lawsuits. The governor seemed to be siding with big landowners and, by extension, their environmental attorneys, whom oil execs loath as the most rapacious of trial lawyers. The leader of the lawyers, whose firm has filed the most oilfield damages suits, is Don Carmouche of Talbot, Carmouche and Marcello, which happens to be the lead attorneys on the lawsuits by Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes.

The parishes’ suits have been likened to the dozens of legacy lawsuits that Carmouche’s firm has brought on behalf of landowners in southwest and central Louisiana. (They are called “legacy” because the claims for damages often go back for decades to ensnare the major oil companies as defendants.)

But the new suits differ in two important ways. Because they are filed in the Coastal Zone, the potential damages, considering coastal erosion, are much greater. Also, instead of the parishes suing as landowners, they are bringing action as the government regulators of development in the Coastal Zone. Sharing that regulatory authority is the state Department of Natural Resources.

The governor could have the state intervene and supplant the parishes as plaintiff. But there is no need to do so. The administration can monitor the lawsuits as it nudges the parties toward a negotiated settlement. At that point, the two coastal parishes won’t be alone, for it is likely that negotiations would lead to a global settlement to include the flood protection authority and the potential claims of other parishes, levee boards and the state itself. There is only one person who can sit at the head of that bargaining table. And it’s not John Barry.

The governor does not necessarily want to be seen as the one who starts this fight, but he is bound to be there when it is resolved.

Such a settlement could go a long way toward funding the state’s master plan for the coast, projected to cost $50 billion over 50 years. Not only would that secure Jindal’s reputation as a coastal protector, but it would also, nationally, establish his independence from and his power over the mighty oil industry.

The late great Russell Long once said that he could never be president because he was an oil state senator. There are other reasons why Bobby Jindal won’t be president, but he can see to it that a cozy relationship with Big Oil won’t be one of them.

ALSO WORTH READING:

— Capitol Cash (Part One)

— How McAllister Beat Riser

— Political Takeaways

LOWDOWN: What NOT to Do When Reporters Come Knocking

In this episode of the Lowdown, we’re letting you in on five things you should avoid doing when you come in contact with a journalist —

HASHTAG LOUISIANA: Policing Chatrooms and Mastering Newsfeeds

 This episode of our digital-focused podcast is all about communication. We give you some simple guidelines for engaging with your

SPONSORED: What to Expect This Time Around

When the Louisiana State Legislature convenes on March 12, one issue will overshadow all others — the budget. It will be the absolute

Alford: Defining The Louisiana Mood

I was eating boiled crawfish last Friday night with my wife and children in Baton Rouge — Crawfish season! Finally! — when I received a text

Rabalais: That Year There Was No Mardi Gras

When the good times (and parades) didn’t roll for Dutch Throughout history, only cataclysmic events such as invading Yankees, Yellow

Political Chatter

— Congressional aide Michael Willis’ BAD JOKE OF THE WEEK: “How do you catch a unicorn? Unique up on it!” (P.S. Happy Mardi Gras!) —

Gamard’s Beltway Beat: Another Shutdown?

It’s a good thing our congressional delegation got their Carnival fill at the 65th Parish a couple of weeks ago, because pending votes on

#HBD TRACKERS

— Tuesday 02/06: Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, Laura Veazey, Stephen Waguespack, Kellee Hennessy, Tom Fitzmorris and Cindy

JBE SAVES MARDI GRAS: Not-so-special session delayed

LaPolitics embarking on annual Carnival break Friday is the new deadline (instead of tomorrow) for the GOP-led House and the

5 Hard-Hitting Campaign Ads

It’s time to review your opposition research, fire up your cameras and get ready to pay your media consultant extra. In this episode, we’re

POD: Liz & The Supremes

In our 48th episode of the LaPolitics Report, we talk to Louisiana Solicitor General Liz Murrill a few weeks after she gave oral arguments

SPONSORED: A Congress Divided

When President Donald Trump delivered his first State of the Union address this week, it arrived on a Congress as divided as Washington

Lowdown: Your German-Born Governor

We'd like to introduce you to Michael Hahn. He was Louisiana's only German-born governor, a close friend of Abraham Lincoln, the original

Capitol Gains: JBE, Re-Election Politics & Chicken Stuff

Gov. John Bel Edwards was the guest for our inaugural episode of Capitol Gains, Louisiana’s only Sunday morning political talk show. In

Hashtag Louisiana: Todd Graves & One Love For Mardi Gras

Our new podcast meets you at the intersection of Louisiana politics, social media and business with host Ira Wray. This first episode is

LaHistory: Foster and Buddy’s Comeback Bid

Foster and Buddy’s Comeback Bid In 1995, Louisiana’s political landscape was shifting. Frustrated with problems in the gambling

#HBD TRACKERS!

— Tuesday 01/30: Congressman Mike Johnson, Denise Thevenot, Matt Holliday and Sonny Cranch — Wednesday 01/31: Congressman Garret

A Very Looziana SOTU (and Other Chatter)

— In case you missed it last night, the Bayou State owned the first five minutes… — U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise got one of the

Special Session Cat-and-Mouse Begins

— THE BOTTOM LINE… is a bit fuzzy. If you ask the top supporters of Gov. John Bel Edwards, the special session is a go. Working under that

LaPolitics Lowdown: Louisiana’s German-Born Governor

Go pull those lederhosen out of your closet and fire up those frankfurters, because the country that gave us Albert Einstein and Bach and

Capitol Gains: JBE Talks Re-election

Gov. John Bel Edwards is the guest for this inaugural episode of Capitol Gains. He talks about his campaign's fundraising totals from last

SPONSORED: It’s Not Just About Mardi Gras

The Picard Group (TPG) traveled to Washington D.C. this week not only to celebrate Washington Mardi Gras but to meet with Congressional

NEW POD: Hashtag Louisiana

Welcome to Hashtag Louisiana, your monthly podcast guide to the intersection of social media, business, and politics in the Pelican

#HBD TRACKERS!

— Tuesday 01/23: Rep. Julie Stokes, former Justice Jeannette Theriot Knoll, John Diez, John Mathis and Sterling LeJeune — Wednesday

LaHistory: Mr. Long Goes To Washington

Thursday will mark an anniversary for the United States Senate — 86 years since the Kingfish himself took the upper chamber by storm, and