NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Gov. Bobby Jindal has named three new members to a New Orleans-area flood control board that filed a lawsuit against 97 oil and gas companies over damage to coastal wetlands.
Jindal had made clear that anyone who supported the suit would not be re-appointed to the nine-member Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East.
The members appointed Wednesday are Lambert Hassinger Jr., a New Orleans attorney; Jefferson Angers, of Baton Rouge, head of an organization that promotes conservation for recreational fishing; and Kelly McHugh, of Madisonville, president of a civil engineering firm.
They replace members John Barry and Dave Barnes, whose terms had expired, and Ricardo Pineda, who never received Senate confirmation. Tim Doody, the board chairman whose term also expired, remains on the board pending Jindal's decision on whether to re-appoint or replace him.
"The governor has put the interests of the oil and gas industry ahead of his obligation to protect our coastal lands from destruction and our people from catastrophic flooding," Barry said in a statement. "This is exactly why the people of Louisiana voted overwhelmingly to keep politics out of flood protection, when they stood up after Katrina to demand an independent flood protection authority unfettered by the constraints of political favoritism. Now that process, and the intent of the voters, has been betrayed by raw politics."
The board's next meeting is set for Thursday morning.
The lawsuit that drew contempt from Jindal, the oil and gas industry and the industry's supporters in state government - and even among other flood control boards in the state - was filed during the summer.
The suit alleges that oil and gas activity in the wetlands is a major contributor to the loss of thousands of acres of coastal land that serve as a natural buffer against flooding from hurricanes. Corrosive saltwater from a network of oil and gas access and pipeline canals has killed vegetation and swept away vast amounts of soil, the suit claims.
No board member voted against the suit. Doody, while supportive, has recused himself from votes, saying the issue could at some point pose a conflict of interest if the law firm he works for became involved.
Jindal's top coastal protection official, Garret Graves, has said the SLFPAE exceeded its authority by filing the lawsuit. He also has said the suit endangers cooperative ventures the state has undertaken with oil companies to save the coast.
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