Update: The committee decided not to renominate John Barry, who has led the lawsuit against oil and gas companies for coastal loss. But current board president Tim Doody was renominated for his seat, along with one other person. Gov. Bobby Jindal can pick one of the two.
Later Monday, Barry said in an email statement that members of the committee “betrayed the public trust” by allowing politics to dictate their decision:
After Hurricane Katrina, the people of Louisiana demanded a levee board made up of professionals instead of political appointees. 94% of the people in Orleans Parish demanded that change. They created a nominating committee and trusted them to carry out that charge. Today, several members of the committee betrayed that trust. I hate to use the word “betray” but that’s what they did. Politics dominated the process and dictated the outcome. Several committee members explicitly announced that politics was dictating their vote. Perhaps the clearest sign of just how deeply politics dominated their thinking was their failure to nominate Tor Tornqvist, one of the leading coastal scientists in the world. Their not nominating him disappoints me more than their not nominating me.
For me, not much will change. I’ll continue to insist that we hold the oil and gas industry to account for the damage it has done to our coastal lands and to repair that damage. They broke the law. If state regulators don’t want to make them obey the law, our lawsuit will. Our lawsuit seems to be the only vehicle that will fund the master plan. The real irony here is that this action comes the very day the federal government is preparing to close because of fights over the federal budget. Yet our anti-tax governor’s plan to pay for rebuilding the coast is to get more money from taxpayers to repair damage done by the most profitable industry on earth. First, that violates his anti-tax principles. Second, given where national politics are right now it is clearly impossible. So I call upon the nominees to look at the facts. If they do, they’ll reach the same conclusion every other member of our board did.
See the live blog below for details.
Monday, a citizen nominating committee will attempt to meet a deadline for nominating board members for three seats on a local levee authority — or Gov. Bobby Jindal gets to make his own picks.
The meeting starts at noon; I will live-blog it here.
What had been a routine procedure for the last five years became politically charged after the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East sued 97 oil and gas companies for damage to coastal wetlands.
The governor not only opposes the suit, he has said he would not appoint any new board members who support it. Indeed, the governor’s coastal chief, Garret Graves, has said Jindal considers the suit a “litmus test.”
The committee charged with picking nominees, however, is not asking applicants about their views on the lawsuit.
State law says the governor must select board members from nominees forwarded by the committee. But that requirement comes with a proviso: If the committee doesn’t reach a decision within 90 days of a vacancy, the governor can make his own selection.
The committee must make its decision by the end of the day Monday.