Mary Landrieu: 'Lawsuits will not save the coasts of Louisiana'

04 07, 2014 by The Times-Picayune

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu stopped short of handing down a wholesale denunciation of the east bank levee board lawsuit against the oil and gas industry Monday (April 7), but distanced herself from the legal challenge in saying she did not believe litigation was the most effective means to protect Louisiana's shrinking coastline.

"Lawsuits will not save the coasts of Louisiana," Landrieu said during remarks to the Press Club of Baton Rouge on Monday. "There are strong arguments on both sides of this lawsuit. But I believe what's going to build this state is a strong revenue sharing paradigm. At least equal or as good as the rest of the states have."

The remarks were her most expansive comments yet on the lawsuit filed last summer by a New Orleans-area levee board against 97 oil, gas and pipeline companies. The suit seeks damages from the companies for their role in nearly a century's worth of coastal degradation.

"We're already tied up in a lawsuit," she added, referring to the fight over RESTORE Act funds for Gulf Coast states after the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. "So forgive me for having a little it of a negative views about lawsuits sometimes because you can never get it out of court. We need money on the ground right now building, you know, building the levees that we need."

But the newly-minted head of the U.S. Senate's energy committee also made clear she did not intend to get involved in the suit or the legislative efforts to block it, saying it was a state, not federal, issue: "They (Louisiana lawmakers) can decide what they want."

She also denied asking the state Democratic Party to oppose the suit. Its members ended up supporting the suit, while also throwing their support behind Landrieu's FAIR ACT. The effort would allow Louisiana to retain more of its oil and gas revenue in order to fund coastal restoration projects.

U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, will challenge Landrieu -- Louisiana's last statewide elected Democrat -- for her seat in November. Landrieu did not once mention Cassidy in her remarks Monday, instead focusing on energy, education and health care issues.

She again reaffirmed her support of the divisive Keystone XL, saying transporting oil from Canada through the pipeline would be safer than transporting it by truck or rail. She also said she favors tougher educational standards like Common Core and encouraging more young girls to get interested STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers.

On education, Landrieu criticized Gov. Bobby Jindal's decision to take his vouchers program statewide after 2012. "I think it sapped the energy of the (education) reform movement," she said after her remarks, adding she would be in favor instead of "strategic vouchers" that don't undermine attempts to turn around failing public schools.

But Landrieu remained closed-lipped on former Gov. Edwin Edward's run for Congress, which some have said would help in her own re-election bid: "I think the governor said it best when he was here. I think he said, 'Mary's running her race and I am running mine.'"