When the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East filed its massive lawsuit against 97 oil and gas companies in July, they knew it would become a politically-charged issue. However, they counted on the support of some of the people who had served on previous levee boards. After all, one of the biggest proponents of the lawsuit, John Barry, the vice-president of the SLFPA-E, was really considered an authority on flood protection and levees. He is the author of “Rising Tide,” which is about the flooding in Louisiana.
Barry has been on the SLFPA-E’s board since it was first created after Hurricane Katrina. Once the lawsuit was filed, though, many of his supporters seemed to fall away. The lawsuit alleges that the “Big Oil” and gas companies have caused serious damage and injury to the state’s coastal areas and wetlands and seeks payment for the repair of the damages.
As soon as the lawsuit was filed, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and his coastal advisor, Garrett Graves, came out defending the oil and gas industry. When Graves made it clear that Barry would not be reappointed to the board, there were some that thought the nominating may still send his name up to the governor.
The nominating panel, which was supposed to be “independent,” was obviously just the opposite. Barry’s term, which ended in June, will likely be filled by one of two nominations sent up by the panel. Barry’s name was voted upon and ended in a 5-5 tie. The chairman of the nominating panel was one of Barry’s biggest supporters before the lawsuit. However, now it seems that support is waning, as the media has learned he is a major stockholder in a company that serves oil companies as its primary customers. Many people think he should have mentioned that conflict of interest before accepting the position on the nominating panel. Another member of the ‘independent’ panel is a representative for the LSU School of Engineering, who recently got $2 million from oil giant, Chevron. It appears that the oil industry was certainly represented in the nominating panel.
When the environment is at risk, people must take a stand to make it right. Speaking out and moving forward with legal action is often required in order to stop big industries from continuing their destructive ways.