by Marion Marks
The most recent announcement of the BP settlement may give some Louisiana politicians hope that the cash cow will be around for additional “free” projects to enrich their inner circle of power. However, citizens must now step up to demand tighter reins on the purse strings and the manner in which this settlement is used. Louisiana has a horrid track record for failing to take advantage of windfalls that could repair damages and improve the quality of life for citizens and businesses damaged.
Governor Jindal’s recent announcement of the Brown & Root headquarters move from Texas to Louisiana sends chills up the spine of many who feel that B&R may have cut some deal based upon the settlement to funnel work to cronies of the governor. The guards at the gate must remain vigilant to the possibility that “following the money” remains the best method for tracking improper deals by government officials. The news of the move has NOT been confirmed on the B&R website news releases.
The possibility that the settlement money could return some of the Louisiana coastline to pre-BP boundaries should be the starting point for reparation. However, mitigating future damage must be the call to fishermen, hunters and environmentalists who seek to protect the natural resources of the state. Having grown up in south Louisiana, I fondly remember boating in areas that no longer exist because of the failures of industrial encroachment and a lack of respect for the coastal waters and buffer islands.
Restoration, reclamation and preservation are all terms for a fifty-year commitment that must begin today. “That would be the largest infusion of money for restoration Louisiana has had at its disposal. State leaders still would have to find revenue sources to put the full 50-year master plan in place, but this would give them more time to do that.” A portion of $1 billion BP committed before the settlement is being used to rebuild western Shell Island in Plaquemines Parish. The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority is awarding a contract for reconstruction of Whiskey Island, off Terrebonne Parish using other BP pre-final-settlement money.
Any action adopted must make settlement money go toward proper actions – not squandered as politicians have so aptly done in the past. The courts are trying to assist citizens so that the settlement is properly used, but elected officials must equally protect these actions.