Environmental groups slammed "Million Dollar Man" Gov. Bobby Jindal for what they call his "aggressive stance" against the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East lawsuit, which targets 97 oil and gas companies for their role in wetlands loss. The groups — Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, Global Green, League of Women Voters, Levees.org, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, Sierra Club and Vietnamese American Young Leaders Association of New Orleans — revealed on Aug. 28 more than $1 million in campaign contributions that Jindal received from oil and gas companies.
The groups showed a list of contributors to his gubernatorial campaigns beginning in 2003 with his first push for governor. The list did not include contributions to his congressional campaign. It's no secret that the oil and gas industry — among the state's largest — backs Louisiana political campaigns. The issue here, according to the groups, is Jindal's contributions fuel his opposition to the lawsuit.
"There is absolutely no other reason why Bobby Jindal refuses to make the oil industry pay for the coast it acknowledges it destroyed," said Anne Rolfes, director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade. "There's no other explanation other than the fact he has received over $1 million in contributions."
Among the 230 contributions the group showed, Jindal received an average of $4,000 beginning in 2003, according to campaign filings with the state Board of Ethics. Helis Oil and Gas contributed $25,000 alone.
What the group didn't show: based on filings with the Federal Election Commission, in his 2004 campaign for Louisiana's first congressional district seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, Jindal received thousands of dollars from oil and gas companies, including $16,000 from Magnum Producing and $13,000 from Oil & Gas Rental Services Inc. His contributions from oil and gas in his tenure total $251,000. (Oil and gas comes in second only to the health industry, which contributed $324,794 to his campaigns.)
"He should not be meddling in this lawsuit because of what he owes oil and gas," Rolfes said.
Sierra Club environmental justice coordinator Darryl Malek-Wiley said compared to oil and gas industry profits, its contributions to Jindal are "drops in the bucket."
"It’s time for these companies not to pay pittance on the dollar but to come and fix the wetlands," he said.
In an Aug. 28 press release, Jindal acknowledged the immediacy of wetlands restoration and called for the "swift release" of RESTORE Act funds earmarked for restoration projects — and protecting oil and gas production.
“Our coastal area is also the top source of offshore energy in the United States and abundant reserves remain," he said. "Louisiana also serves as the gateway to America's Commerce Superhighway — the Mississippi River system. All of this must be protected and sustainable for the future. Our coastal efforts underway in Louisiana today represent the largest effort in the nation to protect and restore a coastal landscape. All of this progress and all of these recovery efforts are going to be wasted if our coast is not sustainable."
Jindal said he has directed state officials to commit RESTORE Act funds to coastal restoration projects, and he has called on BP to "stop spending hundreds of millions of dollars on their public relations campaign" in the wake of the oil disaster and instead release its billions of dollars in Clean Water Act liabilities.