Seeking name recognition and an issue to get some traction on, Public Service Commission District 2 candidate Ed Roy of Lafayette has unveiled a new and quite possibly legitimate issue with which to hammer the presumed frontrunner in the race: Scott Angelle’s Aug. 8 resignation as a secretary of the state Department of Natural Resources — a resignation that occurred amid the deepening crisis with the ominous sinkhole forming in Assumption Parish.
| Scott Angelle, left, and Ed Roy
The sinkhole is believed to be the result of a breached salt dome used by the oil/gas industry to store petrochemicals. It has spread to more than 600 feet in diameter and more than 400 feet deep, and it was recently reported that DNR — the agency oversees, among other things, oil/gas operations in the state — was aware of possible problems with the dome more than a year and a half ago. The sinkhole began forming on Aug. 3. A day later Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency and dozens of residents in the Bayou Corne community were forced to evacuate. Angelle resigned four days later and announced his candidacy for PSC 2.
On Saturday the Roy campaign released a statement critical of Angelle:
Scott Angelle has once again demonstrated that his personal political ambitions are more important to him than the lives and property of the people of Louisiana. Angelle’s failure of leadership in this disaster lies at the intersection of energy, the economy and the environment. Angelle apparently knew about the structural problems with the salt dome as early as January of 2011, more than a year and a half ago. In that time, Angelle not only said and did nothing, he didn’t tell the local sheriff and officials who are responsible for the lives of those people, what he knew about the potential problems. Then, with the crisis coming to a head, and a state of emergency declared — Angelle promptly resigned from DNR, and a day later, announced that he was running for the PSC.
Angelle also served as Gov. Bobby Jindal’s chief legislative liaison for the last few years — a role for which he was rewarded after resigning from DNR by being named by Jindal to the LSU Board of Supervisors. In his press release slamming Angelle for his timely resignation, Roy refers to his opponent as the “former DNR Secretary and Jindal Lobbyist,” which one can’t help but read with a negative connotation.
Roy’s swipe is not without reason: among the declared candidates for the PSC District 2 seat, Angelle enjoys the most statewide name recognition, having served for eight years as DNR secretary plus a short stint as interim lieutenant governor after Mitch Landrieu resigned to enter the New Orleans mayoral race. Angelle also got a fair amount of statewide publicity for his much-celebrated speech at the doomsday-named Rally for Economic Survival in the Cajundome a little over two years ago following the BP disaster and ensuing deepwater drilling moratorium.
The PSC has served as a launch pad for three commissioners who later became governor of Louisiana — most recently Kathleen Blanco, preceded by John McKeithen and the almighty Huey Long.
The PSC’s District 2 is a far-flung unit covering East/West Feliciana, Lafayette, Lafourche, Pointe Coupee, St. Martin, St. Mary and Terrebonne parishes along with parts of parishes in and surrounding Baton Rouge. Roy, a Lafayette private investigator and former TV meteorologist who also served as a sheriff’s investigator, is probably the least known candidate in the race; a third contender, state Rep. Erich Ponti, represents parts of Baton Rouge.
Residents affected by the sinkhole are reportedly furious with both DNR and the Texas energy company that maintains the dome. The sheriff in Assumption Parish told the Associated Press that “DNR has lost all credibility with me.”
Unfortunately for Roy, Assumption Parish where the sinkhole saga is unfolding, is not in PSC 2, and unless he can get that much-desired traction out of the issue, it’s unlikely to retard Angelle’s momentum or tarnish his brand.
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