BATON ROUGE -- Late Friday, the Jindal administration fired another salvo in response to that lawsuit that the East Bank Levee Authority filed against 97 oil, gas and pipeline firms.
This time a letter from Jindal's coastal czar Garrett Graves to the president of the East Bank Levee Authority once again attacks the lawsuit and calls for a meeting.
The letter Graves says there is no debate that "historic oil and gas activities contributed to wetlands loss." But he says the Army Corps of Engineers management of river systems is the primary cause, and addressing that mismanagement is key to protecting coastal communities and restoring Louisiana's wetlands.
Graves argues the levee board overstepped its authority in unilaterally filing lawsuit against the oil industry "without the governor's consent," "despite the governor's opposition, interferes with the governor's ability to act on behalf of the state."
One Wednesday the Levee Board Vice President John Barry said the board does have the authority and the responsibility to protect the public.
But recognizing what Barry called "political reality" the board inserted a clause in the contract to block any effort to kill the lawsuit.
“We did insert a clause in the contract that if the authority withdrew the suit of its own volition, then the authority would have to pay the attorneys reasonable fees plus all expenses which would certainly probably be in the millions,” Barry said.
Graves called the contract with the attorneys "unconscionable," a violation of accepted principles for hiring lawyers and filing lawsuits. He says the lawsuit "disrupts the larger strategy necessary to implement the coastal Master Plan."
Graves is calling for a meeting "to discuss a common path forward that will yield the best long-term results for the people of Louisiana."
Graves says he wants the meeting to ensure the best interest of the public is the top priority and to share what he calls the "bigger picture."