Louisiana Fishing Industry Battles Big Oil over Coastline Erosion

Monday, January 26, 2015
(photo: Dave Martin, AP)

Louisiana’s fishermen and the oil and gas extraction industry have co-existed for years. Some fishermen even work on the oil rigs to supplement their incomes. But some are now taking Big Oil to task for ruining fisheries and even the land on which the fishermen live.


“We’re paying the price for their greed and irresponsible exploration,” lifelong commercial shrimper George Barisich, whose business and home were badly damaged by the double-whammy of Hurricane Katrina and the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, told ClimateProgress. “They went ‘balls to the wall’ with their drilling because they didn’t care. It was just money, money, money.”


Some in Louisiana are trying to get at least a little of that money back. The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East sued 97 oil and gas companies, asking for compensation for the damage done by the oil industry in dredging canals and installing pipelines, causing more erosion of the land and making it more vulnerable to hurricanes. “It’s the greatest ongoing environmental disaster in the country, maybe even in the world,” Democratic strategist and Louisiana native James Carville said. “It’s a really grave problem.”


The suit is also a big problem for the oil and gas companies, so they turned to their pals in the state capital, Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal and the state legislature. Jindal tried to throw a wrench in the suit by firing some of the members of the board that filed the action. When that didn’t work, he signed a bill last year at the urging of petroleum industry lobbyists that would try to shut down the suit.


Some analysts also say the bill could hurt future efforts to collect compensation from oil companies. “If there is a pipeline rupture in the coastal zone, the ability of local governments to litigate will be limited,” John Barry, whom Jindal removed from the levee board after Barry pushed for the lawsuit, told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “I’m actually more concerned about the future than BP litigation.” Jindal denies the bill will have that effect.


The BP Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010 was a wakeup call for many Louisianans. “I am not the same person I was prior to the Deepwater Horizon spill. I never will be. It’s like someone let the air out of my tires, learning how corrupt our elected officials are. I thought I lived in the best country in the world. But no, it’s just drill, baby, drill; kill, baby, kill. And whatever is in the way doesn’t matter. The greed is disgusting to me.” Kindra Arnesen, who works in the commercial fishing industry in Venice, Louisiana, told ClimateProgress.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

The ‘Sacrifice Zone’: Life As A Fisherman Along Louisiana’s Vanishing Coastline (by Alice Ollstein, ClimateProgress)

Can Louisiana Hold Oil Companies Accountable For Its Vanishing Coastline? (by Alice Ollstein and Kira Lerner, ClimateProgress)

Bobby Jindal Signs Bill to Kill Lawsuit Against Oil, Gas Companies (by Julia O’Donoghue, Times-Picayune)

Feds Ignored Louisiana Concerns about Experimental Chemicals Used against Oil Slick (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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