Supporters Converge in Solidarity with Flood Protection Authority

Last week, a diverse array of Louisiana organizations and citizens, including Gulf Restoration Network, converged on two different meetings in order to support the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority’s lawsuit versus 97 oil, gas and pipeline companies for destruction of the Louisiana coast.The first was a meeting of the Louisiana House and Senate Transportation, Highways and Public Works Committees on August 14th for “review and discussion relative to Civil Action No. 13-6911.” That action is the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority’s lawsuit. It is unusual for the Joint Transportation Committee to meet to consider this pending litigation because the committee has no legislative authority to oversee the actions of the independent Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority – East.The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority – East was established by the voters of Louisiana by Constitutional Amendment in 2007 with the sole mission of flood protection. It was established as a body of credentialed experts in engineering, hydrology and flood protection, independent of the political meddling said to have plagued local levee boards before Katrina and Rita. “The primary purpose of the new Authority, as stated in the law, is regional coordination of flood protection.” said Sandy Rosenthal, founder of Levees.org.Louisiana has lost more than 1,900 square miles of coastal wetlands. This loss includes the destruction of marsh vegetation by salt water intrusion caused by 10,000 miles of canals and pipelines for oil and gas companies. This loss also includes the sinking of coastal lands caused by the extraction of oil and gas resources.In lower Barataria, much of the marsh is gone where old oil fields are still producing. This extraction activity is happening close to a Federal restoration project.”The industrial damage to Louisiana’s coast makes all of us more vulnerable to the dangers of storm surge and sea level rise. This lawsuit is about holding the oil, gas and pipeline industries accountable for fixing the coast they broke,” said Sandra Slifer, President, League of Women Voters of Louisiana.”The legislators know the damage done to our coast by oil and gas companies, but they haven’t done anything to hold these companies responsible. They should not stand in the way of this lawsuit,” said Cynthia Sarthou, Executive Director, Gulf Restoration Network.”We have seen a great outpouring of public support for the lawsuit brought by the Southeast Flood Protection Authority with over 11,000 signatures to a petition asking Gov. Jindal to support this lawsuit rather than attack the lawsuit by Southeast Flood Protection Authority” said Darryl Malek-Wiley Sierra Club.The second meeting was that of the Flood Protection Authority itself. There, the crowd gave the members of the Flood Protection Authority a standing ovation as they entered the room in recognition of their bravery in filing this suit. Cynthia Sarthou, GRN’s Executive Director, was one of several folks who spoke at the meeting in support of the Authority’s lawsuit. She pointed out that, despite assurances from the oil and gas industry otherwise, “the oil industry has not stepped up to the plate when we’ve asked them to mitigate.” Cynthia speaking at Flood Protection Authority meeting.After a closed-door executive session, the Flood Protection Authority voted on two resolutions. One reaffirming their support for the lawsuit, and another agreeing on a 45 day pause of “substantive” portions of the lawsuit, allowing for further discussion between the Authority, the Governor, and folks from the oil and gas industry.We’ll keep you updated as this story continues to unfold. In the meantime, take a minute to sign this petition to Governor Jindal calling on him to stand with Louisiana’s communities and wetlands, not the oil and gas industry.Raleigh Hoke is GRN’s Communications Director. Portions of this blog post were excerpted/adapted from this joint press release from a coalition of groups supporting the Flood Protection Authority’s lawsuit.