Letter: John Barry has right idea on coastal issues

Last month marked the first anniversary of the so-called levee lawsuit filed to force the oil and gas industry to pay for some of the coastal damage directly attributable to coastal energy exploration and production. Our coast will be toast before $100 billion of taxpayer money would ever be appropriated to address the problem, at least a third of which has been caused by unmitigated oil and gas activities.

The levee lawsuit offered the possibility (never a slam dunk) that the legal system would be sufficiently independent of politics to force the industry known for exceptionable profitability to work out an agreement for fairly compensating the public for the environmental cost of doing business in south Louisiana.

The lawsuit was the brainchild of John M. Barry, as thoughtful, credible and public-spirited a Louisianian as I know. Conservative columnist Quin Hillyer marked the occasion with an anti-Barry tirade that repeated a rote series of fallacious and discredited statements by energy interests, and the governor aimed to impugn Barry as a stooge for greedy trial lawyers.

John Barry has served for many years as a volunteer member of various coastal committees attempting to develop policy measures (and funding sources) sufficient to offset the relentlessly expanding flood risk in Southeast Louisiana. He has no ax to grind other than a passion to protect the resources, history and culture of his adopted state.

Hillyer’s statements expose the hypocrisy of those who defend energy corporations against their responsibility to mitigate the damage for which they’re known to be responsible. Opponents of the lawsuit recognize that if the court system gets the opportunity to examine the evidence, justice could be served and corporate “citizens,” rather than taxpayers, would finally pay their fair share.

Meanwhile, Hillyer bemoans the fact that taxpayers may have to cough up to pay the lawyers who have sued the oil and gas companies.

Len Bahr

coastal scientist and policy adviser

Baton Rouge