This is a conversation we in South Louisiana need to have, and if it takes a massive lawsuit against scores of oil companies by a tiny, independent levee board in New Orleans to do it, then so be it. The suit brought by Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East against 97 companies it accuses of destroying Louisiana’s coast through decades of drilling and dredging — thus depleting the coast’s natural ability to protect us from hurricanes — has a tough slog ahead of it. The suit demands the companies respect a clause that has always been part of state leases for exploration and production: Return the area to the condition in which you found it. Politicians and local and state government, which have long benefitted from the energy industry, have often ignored this little requirement. The SLFPA-E is saying “no more.” Regardless of whether it’s ultimately successful, the suit could nonetheless achieve at least one important goal: Make current and future oil companies operating in Louisiana, under the specter of legal action, take greater care of our most important natural resource — our coast and its wetlands. Drill away, boys, but clean up your damn mess.
Let us now throw the baby out with the bath water. A few weeks ago Louisiana Right to Life, a powerful anti-abortion group that has Baton Rouge’s ear, urged Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration to stop paying Planned Parenthood’s two clinics in Louisiana for non-abortion health services. That’s non-abortion health services — contraception, mammograms, prenatal care, etc. These services are used mainly by low-income women who can’t otherwise afford such niceties as basic reproductive health care and family planning. We respect LRF’s right to lobby for its pro-life agenda, but this is too much. And here’s why: According to a new study released by the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit research organization that promotes access to family planning services — research, by the way, that comports with many earlier studies — taxpayer-supported family planning services saved the federal government $10.5 billion and helped prevent more than 2 million unplanned pregnancies and 760,000 abortions in 2010. Think about that.
Despite the fact that early indicators suggest the Affordable Care Act, AKA Obamacare, will achieve its goal and reduce health care costs by providing millions of Americans with much-needed health insurance — millions of young Americans who heretofore were booted from their parents’ plans at 18 are among the newly insured thanks to Obamacare — some in the Grand Old Party just won’t let go. Ignore for a minute the more than three dozen times the U.S. House of Representatives has (symbolically) voted to repeal Obamacare — we’re thinking of you, Rep. Boustany — and consider the latest from Louisiana’s junior senator. David Vitter has joined 11 fellow Republican senators in signing a letter threatening to shut the government down — to stop the Social Security checks, the Medicare reimbursements and payment on the national debt, etc. — if Congress doesn’t vote to defund Obamacare, risking economic ruin for these United States. Even Vitter’s fellow Republicans are calling bullshit on this stupid idea, characterizing it as “terribly dangerous” (Sen. Tom Coburn), “a suicidal political tactic” (Rep. Tom Cole), “terror politics” (Rep. Peter King) and “the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard of” (Sen. Richard Burr). Well said, gentlemen. Well said.