Despite BP oil spill, Louisiana still loves Big Oil
Deepwater drilling and Louisiana are synonymous. Despite the BP oil spill, the industry is still seen as delivering lifeblood.
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Fishing, drilling have coexisted
"What makes the oil spill such an interesting issue is that, historically, fishing and oil have worked well together here. This is the first time that one industry is threatening the survival of the other," says Mr. Goidel.Skip to next paragraph
Yet so far, the official state response has been marked by restraint. Despite joining a multistate suit against federal health-care reform legislation, Gov. Bobby Jindal said April 30 that Louisiana was not considering a lawsuit against BP. (He has decided, however, to go forward with plans to build sand berms off the coast to try to keep oil from washing into sensitive areas, even though the US Army Corps of Engineers has not yet issued the state a permit to do so.) Prominent Democratic and Republican officeholders say they will hold BP responsible for the spill, but none has yet called for suits against BP or for new industry regulations.
"In the state's economy and politics, there's no question that the oil industry plays a central role across the board," says Goidel.
Private attorney Don Carmouche, one of the legal team handling the Terrebonne Parish suit, is something of a local Erin Brockovich. His firm has previously sued oil companies in Louisiana on behalf of the state, school boards, and other clients who own public land contaminated by oil operations. During the past century, oil companies used open pits to dispose of hazardous wastes including arsenic, lead, and radioactive material that leached into ground water. But he's careful to say that the Terrebonne suit isn't aimed at the oil industry but at BP alone.
"We don't want to be seen as attacking the oil and gas industries, but a major oil company operating in this state ignored the regulatory system, or benefited from regulators that allowed them to get by with it," he says. "In the early days, the oil companies did whatever they wanted to and got away with it, and apparently that was going on now with BP and the [US] Minerals Management Service."
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