Bill Selection

The following report card has been developed in an effort to let the public know how State Representatives and Senators voted on environmental interests. The selected bills and amendments represent a wide range of state environmental issues and reflect the environmental voting records of the legislators.

Salt Domes

The terrible tragedy at Bayou Corne enlightened many legislators. Senator Rick Ward introduced SB 209 which addressed future disasters involving salt dome cavern storage. SB 209 passed unanimously. Representative Karen St. Germain was also successful in passing a resolution that requested the office of conservation to study the effect of implementing certain requirements for operators of salt dome caverns.

Members of the GreenARMY were successful in having legislation passed thatsupported the efforts of Save Lake Peigneur, Inc. The new legislation requires public hearings before issuing permits to drill or operate a new solution-mined cavern or to expand or convert an existing solution-mined cavern in Iberia Parish. It also requires that the mining company must submit a report that provides a baseline analysis of groundwater in the area of a permitted activity including both the water level and salt content, a plan for monitoring the groundwater in the area for levels and salt during the activity permitted, a geologic analysis of the integrity of the salt dome, and the results of an analysis of testing that attempts to determine the source and composition of the foaming or bubbling appearing in Lake Peigneur.

The citizens have been trying for eight years to get a comprehensive study and an explanation of the bubbling on the lake. Save Lake Peigneur, Inc. has had the leadership of Representative Sydney Mae Durand and Senator Troy Hebert since the first efforts at legislation began in 2007. Their first successful bill was brought forth by Senator Hebert and passed in 2009. It protected drinking water, but was deemed unconstitutional a few months later. In 2013 two more bills failed. In 2014 with the leadership of Senator Fred Mills a positive environmental solution advantageous to both Save Lake Peigneur, Inc. and AGL Resources, Inc., the mining company, was created, and a legislative package authored by Senator Mills was passed unanimously by both houses. That was no small feat.

Abandoned Oil Wells

The issue of abandoned oil wells and the pollution problem they cause has been a long recognized problem in Louisiana. Legislation addressing this issue was introduced by Representative Robert Johnson, but was stalled in House Natural Resources Committee. He then introduced HCR 102 which proposed having the Department of Natural Resources and the Oilfield Site Restoration Commission review the abandoned wells and make rule changes that would result in quicker cleanup and a more comprehensive review. It cleared the legislative process, and passed before the Legislative Auditor’s scathing report on the program was released.

Levee Authority Challenged

The most controversial and intense legislative activity was initiated to fulfill the Governor’s desire to stop the lawsuit filed by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East against 97 oil and gas companies that would hold them accountable for their part in the destruction of coastal wetlands. While there were a number of bills introduced in both the House and the Senate to stop the lawsuit, SB 469 finally became the bill that was used for this purpose.

Passage of SB 469 was a long and heated battle. During the legislative process, the bill was amended to make it retroactive in order to stop the previously filed lawsuit. The real vote came in the Senate when Senator Martiny introduced an amendment to eliminate the retroactive part of the bill. This failed on a 19 to 18 vote. We were extremely disappointed in several Senators, especially Senator Rick Ward, III and Senator Greg Tarver.

SB 469 passed out of the House Natural Resources committee with opposition from the attorneys on the committee. Representative Connick and Representative John Bel Edwards should be commended for their efforts on the House floor to amend the legislation.