NEW ORLEANS -- Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell is recommending Gov. Bobby Jindal veto a bill that would essentially kill a local levee board's lawsuit against 97 oil and gas companies.
The governor decided Monday to delay signing that bill to retroactively take away the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority - East's right to sue the oil and gas companies.
That was after some scholars said it might hurt the state's ability -- and the ability of other state and local governmental bodies -- to pursue pending claims against BP for ecological damage and lost revenues stemming from the 2010 oil spill disaster.
In response, Jindal's top legal adviser in a letter said Caldwell was just repeating opponents' arguments and the governor's lawyer, Thomas Enright, says he "respectfully disagrees" that a veto is necessary.
Sen. Robert Adley, the original architect of legislation against the levee board lawsuit, was less diplomatic.
"We've been down there debating this bill for three months and he (Caldwell) has not showed up one time," Adley said. "He never came to committee. He was a no show. This is a guy sitting in public office abdicating his responsibility. It’s shameful and disrespectful."
Adley, R-Benton, is the former owner of Pelican Gas Management. He has argued that the levee board lawsuit is "illegal," prompting supporters of the lawsuit to question why Adley won't let the courts decide if it's proper or not.
Caldwell already sided with the levee board when Adley's allies at Louisiana Oil and Gas Association argued that the suit and its arrangement with outside legal counsel were improper. A judge threw out the LOGA case and called it "frivolous."
But Adley said the latest arguments against Senate Bill 469 have no merit because the law governing claims against BP for the oil spill is a federal law that pre-empts state law. Legal scholars warn, however, that some of BP's spill response activity happened in the state's Coastal Zone and BP could jeopardize the state's claims if it argues that SB 469 prevents Caldwell's office from actually pushing the claims further.
Although Adley disagrees with the bill's opponents, he told WWLTV.com that he respected them for feeling strongly about the right of the levee board to continue its lawsuit. However, he said he did not respect Caldwell for coming in at the last minute and repeating the same arguments.
"I woud have more than welcomed any comments he had to amend that bill to ensure Louisiana's interests were protected," Adley said. "But that’s my point. He never showed up to make any amendments because there are none."
Caldwell's office has not responded to requests for comment.