Letter: Leadership welcome on coastal issues

I’d like to comment on your editorial about me and the lawsuit against 97 oil companies filed by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East, the board of which I am (still, at this writing) vice president.

Although I would dispute some of the minor points you made, you did get the big picture right. You did identify the big problem.

The lawsuit is not the problem. The disappearance of coastal Louisiana is the problem. What happens to me — how soon the governor replaces me on the board — is not important. The millions of Louisiana residents whose lives are endangered by the disappearance of our coast — these people are important. Preserving coastal Louisiana is important. Louisiana is continuing to lose a buffer of land that protects not only lives and property in populated areas but a way of life along the coast itself.

You correctly noted that the oil and gas industry’s contribution to land loss has “migrated to the legal realm because for generations, Louisiana’s political establishment has been unable — or unwilling — to develop policies that hold the appropriate parties responsible for what is, at base, an ecological disaster.” You quoted Garret Graves, the governor’s top coastal adviser, saying, “I’m the first one to admit there’s liability there” for the industry. Graves has also told me personally, “Your suit has merit.” And you concluded the governor must “offer specific plans for holding industry accountable for the harm it’s done.”

That is exactly what we want. Our lawsuit only covers our jurisdiction, while land loss caused by the oil and gas industry is actually much worse to the west of our area. In every talk I give, I call upon the governor to do what you have asked him to do — to show courage and leadership and bring oil to the table and solve the problem for the whole state. To repeat, our lawsuit is not the problem. The land loss is the problem.

One thing you did not point out: the state’s master plan has been deservedly praised — but that plan has no funding. Ironically, our anti-tax governor wants taxpayers to fund it. He wants taxpayers to pay to repair even the damage which his own administration concedes the industry caused. He wants Congress to send Louisiana billions of dollars a year. He wants to bet the life of Louisiana’s coast on the generosity of Congress. That was never a good bet and it’s less so now, as we sit in the middle of a government shutdown sparked by a fight over deficit spending, facing threats about defaults on the debt limit. Considering that the very existence of much of the state, including New Orleans, is at risk, the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East believed someone had to act. We did.

If the governor chooses now to step up and lead, I personally will be happy to support him.

John Barry

vice-president, Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East

New Orleans