NEW ORLEANS - There could be a possible showdown at this week's meeting of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E) over the board's lawsuit, accusing 97 oil, gas and pipeline companies of contributing to coastal erosion.
Governor Bobby Jindal's three new appointees to the board, led by New Orleans attorney Joe Hassinger are expected to ask the board to halt the lawsuit.
The meeting comes amid calls for Hassinger to recuse himself from voting and discussing matters concerning the energy industry. He is a partner in the Galloway Johnson law firm.
The firm's own website says its clients include both major and independent oil and gas producers, as well as oilfield service companies and suppliers.
"I think even the appearance of a conflict of interest is enough that he should recuse himself, even the appearance, whether or not it's true or not," said Sandy Rosenthal, founder of the environmental action group levees.org.
She also says Hassinger should not be the one leading the charge to suspend the lawsuit. "This is how big oil gets their way. They're everywhere. Their fingers are every where. It's simply a matter of standing up to them."
Hassinger did not return phone calls and email seeking comment for this story. But, a spokesman for Governor Jindal says Hassinger has confirmed that his law firm does not represent any of the companies involved in the lawsuit.
He also said, out of an abundance of caution, Hassinger is seeking an Louisiana Ethic's Board recommendation on the matter.
John Barry, the former vice-chairman of the SLFPA-E who lost his seat on the board in part because of his support for the lawsuit says Hassinger should recuse himself.
"If the law firm does represent oil and gas companies and I haven't checked that, but I've heard that, I think the ethics laws are pretty clear, it's a conflict," said Barry.
Tuesday, Barry launched a new non-profit organization called Restore Louisiana Now with a mission to protect and restore coastal Louisiana and other endangered parts of the state. He said a primary focus will be to make sure the governor and state lawmakers don't interfere with the lawsuit
"The opponents of the lawsuit want the legislature to stop a lawsuit," said Barry. "That is just offensive, I would think to any American."
The SLFPA-E meets Thursday at 9:30 a.m. at the Orleans Levee District's administrative complex at 6920 Franklin Ave.