The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East has three new board members, thanks to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. The three were appointed last month after the governor chose not to reappoint the board’s vice-president, John Barry, and two others for their role in approving a massive lawsuit against 97 oil and gas companies. Now, one of the new appointees has come under fire from the lawsuit’s proponents because of a possible conflict of interest.
The lawsuit filed earlier this year alleges that the oil and gas industry has caused damage and injury to the state’s coastal areas because of their dredging operations, as well as the building of pipelines and canals. The lawsuit seeks reparations for the damages or the industry’s assistance in repairing the coastal devastation.
The board appointee in question, Joe Hassinger, is “leading the charge” to have the lawsuit suspended; however, the problem comes from the law firm with which he is associated. He is a partner at a New Orleans law firm, and the firm’s website states their clients include oil and gas producers, and oilfield suppliers and servicers.
The founder of levees.org, an environmental group, says that ‘This is how big oil gets their way. They’re everywhere. Their fingers are every where. It’s simply a matter of standing up to them.” Hassinger hasn’t issued a comment about the allegations of a possible conflict of interest; however, the governor’s spokesman said that the law firm doesn’t represent any of the almost 100 companies named in the SLFPA-E’s lawsuit.
The spokesman also said, though, that the state ethic’s board has been asked to issue a recommendation. Barry said that while he hasn’t fact-checked the allegations, he believes that it’s clear an ethics law violation would exist if Hassinger’s law firm did represent companies in the oil and gas industry.
Environmental concerns cannot be addressed unless there are people who care enough to bring these matters to light. In many cases, civil action is required in order for changes to occur.
wwltv.com, “Critics say Jindal levee board appointee should recuse himself from energy lawsuit” Paul Murphy, Nov. 19, 2013