‘LaLa’ Lalonde calls Big Oil’s bluff: Ignore threats that they’ll bail on Louisiana

Retired legislator Raymond "LaLa" Lalonde remains a raging voice of Cajun Louisiana.

Retired legislator Raymond "LaLa" Lalonde remains a raging voice of Cajun Louisiana.

John Prine wrote a song lamenting the loss of the land where he was born and spent his childhood. The refrain goes like this:

“Daddy, won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County, down by the Green River where Paradise lay. Well, I’m sorry, my son, but you’re too late in asking; Mr. Peabody’s coal trains done hauled it away.”

During the time that I served on the Council of Occupational Education’s National Accreditation Team, I was involved in the evaluation of several schools in Kentucky and West Virginia, among them the Muhlenberg Technical School. What the coal companies did to that region can best be described as industrial rape. Now there is no coal, no jobs, and the land is so desolate it cannot grow a beanstalk.

In South Louisiana, someday we’ll be singing an adapted version of the John Prine refrain:

“Sorry, my son, but you’re too late in asking, the oil companies’ canals done washed it away.”

In the upcoming legislative session in Baton Rouge, we, the public, will be blitzed with the  biggest ad campaign the oil industry has come up with. It will warn of dire consequences: You’re going to lose your job; you’ll have to give up your first-born child, etc., etc. All this will happen, we’ll be warned, if the oil companies are held liable for the environmental damage they’ve caused. There is even legislation proposed to exempt them from such damages and past infractions. Unbelievable!

The oil industry has undoubtedly contributed to the economy of Louisiana and in return Louisiana has rewarded it abundantly. Generous tax breaks favor this hugely profitable industry. A subservient Gov. Bobby Jindal is attempting to squelch the East Bank Flood Protection Authority’s lawsuit seeking reparation for ruining our coast.

Expect to hear threats that the oil industry will “move out” if Louisiana fights back. But crying wolf like that has about run its course.  As long as there is oil offshore and beneath Louisiana soils, there will be oil-related jobs in Louisiana. Just as there are in Nigeria and Iraq and other political locales far riskier for oil operations.

And when the oil is depleted, just as when the coal was depleted, the jobs will be gone, the companies will be gone, and Louisiana will be left with a contaminated and washed-out coast. Former shoreline soils will lie somewhere between here and Guatemala, and our grandkids will be fishing for crabs somewhere around Plaucheville.

Raymond “LaLa” Lalonde, a St. Landry Parish native, served in the Louisiana House of Representatives from 1980 until 1996. A retired college administrator, he remains active promoting and preserving the French/Acadian culture of South Louisiana.

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  • TraveLAr

    LaLa! I remember well, he had some good moments in his legislative years, willing at times to take on the big boys on the side of regular folk. And some mistakes too. He’s helped his state, and I thank him for speaking out once again, on this important issue.

  • Sandy Rosenthal

    Bureaucracies with a shameful past have their talking points all written and ready to go. We are hearing them now from Big Oil.

  • KC King

    Big oil’s local friends in real estate, development, construction and local government have won the first battle in this fight by putting their short term special interests before safety in the form of distorted insurance rates. Their next battle will be to avoid responsibility for cleanining up after themselves.

    They know that with enough money and resident apathy the can win again unless we citizens stand up.