Another crack has appeared in the berm, which is supposed to contain the toxic goo sloshing around the great Bayou Corne sinkhole.
Meanwhile, Texas Brine, the company that visited this disaster upon us when its salt-dome mine caused a cavern to collapse, says the sinkhole, which now covers 26 acres, will double in size. Since environmental bandits will always tend to low-ball the damage, there is no telling how much longer the landscape will continue to slide into the abyss.
Gov. Bobby Jindal does not mention the sinkhole when he makes a video for the GOP, which is very wise, given his thesis that Louisiana on his watch is in hunky-dory condition.
What with sinkholes and ongoing wetlands loss, the question might become how much of Louisiana will be left for anyone to govern.
It was in early August last year that the bayou commenced to bubble, and the smell of oil filled the air.
As the hole expanded, and the threat of explosion loomed, residents were evacuated. Texas Brine then bought many of them out, while the familiar wooded terrain was transformed into a noxious stretch of open water.
No, Jindal did not jump into his helicopter and dash to the scene as soon as the sinkhole appeared, but that was hardly to be expected from a governor with so much on his plate.
At the time he was — you’ve guessed it! — out of state raising campaign money, this time in Colorado, D.C. and Florida.
It is true that Hurricane Isaac proved a powerful distraction three weeks later, but Assumption Parish officials and displaced residents commenced to grumble as the months passed and still no sign of Jindal.
He remained aloof until March, but when he did finally appear, it was with a stirring message. He would hold Texas Brine’s feet to the fire, and “make sure they’re responsible for clearing up the mess they have created.”
Jindal on this occasion was true to his word, filing a lawsuit against Texas Brine just short of a year after the sinkhole opened up.
Another lawsuit with a remarkably similar rationale had been filed just a few days earlier. In that one the New Orleans-area flood protection authority sought compensation from the oil and gas companies that have destroyed our wetlands with their canals and pipelines and ignored their legal obligation to repair the damage.
Nobody doubts that Louisiana is all the more vulnerable to hurricanes because the companies have been left free to plunder for decades. Their culpability is every bit as plain as Texas Brine’s.
Except, apparently, to Jindal, who threw a tantrum and refused to reappoint John Barry, leading proponent of the offending lawsuit, to the flood protection authority.
The official reason for Jindal’s objection was that the state’s master plan for coastal restoration would somehow be jeopardized if the companies were forced to return a fraction of the fabulous wealth they have extracted from Louisiana. But we’re not dumb enough to buy that. Oil and gas have always held a special place in our politicians’ hearts.
The flood protection authority shows no inclination to abandon its lawsuit, but Jindal will instruct the legislature to derail it next year. Barry, who plans to continue the fight on his own account, claims legislators might balk, and, while that would generally be a bold claim, it is beginning to look as though he could be right.
He has a powerful kindred spirit in the person of Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, who became a local hero for his stellar performance in command of the Katrina recovery, and now lambastes the oil and gas companies with the same old vigor. Honoré delivered a call to action at a recent gathering of environmentalists organized by the online news service The Lens.
As the Bayou Corne sinkhole grows, meanwhile, so may public resentment. The exploitation has gone on so long, that, Jindal notwithstanding, it is high time for the worm to turn.
James Gill’s email address is email@example.com