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Debunking Big Oil's big lie



In the ongoing political battle over whether to allow the local levee board to sue oil and gas companies for accelerating wetland loss and increasing the risk of flooding in southeast Louisiana, one of the energy industry's favorite memes is that the lawsuit will chase jobs out of our state.

  Such a statement is preposterous on its face. So much so that even the president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association (LOGA), who is among the loudest proponents of Big Oil's Big Lie, was utterly unable, when questioned under oath, to cite a single oil well that shut down or did not get drilled, or a single energy company that moved away or refused to drill in Louisiana, because of environmental lawsuits. Not one.

  The reason, of course, is simple: This is where the oil is. The energy industry has to be here to take the oil and gas out of the ground or from beneath our waters.

  But the Big Lie persists, because the energy industry's political toadies, like Gov. Bobby Jindal and some lawmakers, know that if they keep saying it over and over some folks will believe it.

  As people learn the facts, however, the Big Lie loses its impact.

  Last week, the lie was dealt another blow. Dr. Tim Ryan, former UNO chancellor and an economist with decades of expertise in the field of economic analysis, released a study showing that the total economic impact of implementing the Master Plan for restoring Louisiana's coast would be somewhere between $12.5 billion and $24.3 billion a year for 50 years.

  Why such a disparate range? Because the Master Plan has two implementation levels — and two price tags — $50 billion and $100 billion. The $50 billion level would merely slow down the rate of coastal erosion, not stop or reverse it. At $100 billion (over 50 years), the writers of the Master Plan predict that coastal land loss could be halted and then reversed. Ryan analyzed the impact of both cost models.

  His conclusion: a total economic impact of somewhere between $600 billion and $1.21 trillion over the next 50 years. Ryan also predicts a permanent increase of at least 109,000 direct jobs — possibly more than 212,000 — and between $750 million and $1.47 billion a year in local and state governmental revenues.

  Ryan's study was commissioned by Restore Louisiana Now Inc., a nonprofit that supports the lawsuit against 97 oil, gas and pipeline companies by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E). Restore Louisiana Now is led by former SLFPA-E vice chair John Barry, who was removed from the authority's board by the minions of Gov. Bobby Jindal.

  The latest twist to the Big Lie holds that the Ryan study actually proves why the lawsuit should be derailed — allegedly because (as Jindal and former "coastal czar" Garret Graves claim) the lawsuit will hurt efforts to implement the Master Plan.

  That one should win a prize. Jindal, Graves and others actually claim (with a straight face) that raising money to implement the Master Plan would hurt the Master Plan — because it would interfere with Jindal's secret plan to finance the Master Plan.

  Truth is, Jindal's "plan" for financing the Master Plan is to sue the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, win in court (which is highly unlikely), and then force Congress to pick up the entire $50 billion to $100 billion cost of implementing the plan. That notion, like the Big Lie itself, is preposterous on its face.

  For starters, it assumes that the Corps' Mississippi River levees are solely responsible for all wetland loss. No doubt levees are responsible for much of the loss — maybe even most of it — but the energy industry also is responsible for a portion. The industry already admits it.

  That's what the levee board lawsuit is all about: getting the energy industry to pay for its share of wetland loss. Industry's portion could comprise much if not all of the state's "match" for federal funding, in fact.

  Here's the truth: If lawmakers kill the levee board's lawsuit, the Master Plan will never be implemented and Louisiana's coast will disappear forever.

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