Landrieu downplays value of levee suit

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said Monday that a more equitable division of offshore oil and gas energy revenue, not legal action, is the key to saving Louisiana’s disappearing coastline.

“Lawsuits will not save the coast of Louisiana,” Landrieu told reporters.

Her comments came during and after an appearance at the Press Club of Baton Rouge.

Landrieu is seeking her fourth term in the Senate this year.

One of the hot topics of the legislative session is a push to derail a lawsuit filed against nearly 100 oil and gas firms.

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Robert Adley, R-Benton, is pushing a bill that would require the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority — East to win the permission of the attorney general and the governor before officials of the group hire lawyers.

The proposal, Senate Bill 553, also would require that lawsuits involving a contingency fee, which this one does, would have to be approved by the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget.

Asked about Adley’s bill Landrieu said, “I am not going to get in the middle of that debate. It is a state issue. They can decide what they want. I am going to stay focused on revenue sharing.”

Landrieu has long pushed for what she calls a fairer allocation — revenue sharing -- of energy dollars.

“This has been my No. 1 issue.” she said.

Since 1920 interior states have kept 50 percent of revenue from all oil, gas and coal produced on federal lands.

However, energy produced offshore of the Gulf Coast has generated $211 billion in federal dollars, with the states collecting little.

In 2011 energy production off of Louisiana’s coast generated $5.7 billion in federal revenue with $26.7 million going back to the state.

Wyoming produced $2.1 billion in energy production revenue on federal lands and got $995 million back.

She said Louisiana, Texas and other Gulf Coast states deserve a bigger share of energy revenue, as those in the western United States already enjoy.

“I understand how frustrated people are who live in south Louisiana, and they have been seeing their communities literally washing away and they don’t see any help on the way,” Landrieu said.

“And I can understand the frustration but I think the way to solve that problem is what I have been leading for 20 years,” she said.

Landrieu said a fairer allocation of energy dollars is “not tied up in court, not on appeal, but coming every year to our coast and our people. And that is what I am going to spend my time on.”

Adley’s bill won approval last week in the Senate Transportation Committee and next faces a vote in the full Senate.

In another area, Landrieu renewed her criticism of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s decision not to accept an expansion of Medicaid, which was part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowed states to decide whether to accept the widened coverage.

It is supposed to be financed by the federal government for the first three years, then 90 percent after that.

Jindal has said that the state cannot afford the expansion and that Medicaid is a broken system.

Landrieu said the broader coverage would benefit about 252,000 residents.

“It’s like saying no to the entire city of Shreveport,” she said.

“I call it the Jindal gap,” Landrieu added. “That is the gap people have fallen into.”

While efforts failed last year, state Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa and other Democrats are trying to win approval for the expansion.

Landrieu said Jindal’s decision means the state is leaving $16 billion in federal dollars on the table.