Monday, May 16, 2011

Legislative Update, May 16, 2011

For those of you who like to watch the Louisiana State legislature I have identified here some proposed legislation that will be of interest to you.

Our top priority this year is opposition to HB 563, HB 564 and SB 146. These bills from Representatives Cortez, Seabaugh, and Senator Adley seek to remove the right of property owners to sue oil companies for damages to their property, and to throw resolution of all such disputes into the State Dept of Natural Resources Office of Conservation. This department is known to be very friendly to the oil industry. This legislation will directly affect the ability of property owners to clean up after the oil companies. The industry as usual wants to get a free pass at somebody else’s expense. The first hearings on these bills will be Wednesday, May 11.

Two good bills from Senator A.G. Crowe of Slidell deserve our support. The first one is SB 97, the Oil Spill Response Act that would require any dispersants to be listed on the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan, and would require dispersants to be non-toxic and have a substantiated endpoint of carbon dioxide and water. As you know the dispersants used by BP were highly toxic and still reside in the ecosystem over a year after the disaster. Of course this legislation would have force only in state waters but there is also an effort in the legislature to extend the boundary for state waters out from the current three mile limit.

The second good bill from Senator Crowe is SB 184 which seeks to open up the time period for claims against BP such that “any right, claim, cause or action which would have expired during the time period of April 20, 2010 through September 30, 2011 shall lapse on November 1, 2021.” There will of course be legal arguments over this but the principle of opening up restrictive time periods for claims against BP is one we can agree with.

SB 247 by Senator Willard-Lewis of New Orleans creates the crime of “illegal disposal of waste” (including toxic waste) and sets penalties for illegal dumping of waste. Waste is defined in the proposed law but limited to those identified and designated as waste by the Department of Environmental Quality. Federal law already prohibits illegal disposal of wastes but this state law would allow quicker legal action and would prescribe for fines, possible prison time and confiscation of vehicles used by offenders.

Another good one by Senator Willard-Lewis is SB 245 that provides a state income tax credit for sales tax paid by homeowners when purchasing green materials for residential home building or remodeling. This could encourage green building by offset of the higher cost of such materials.

HB 595 (Labruzzo) retains current tax credits for installation of residential solar and wind systems but adds that the state tax credit shall be in addition to any federal grant earned for the same system. This minor tweak will help to maintain Louisiana’s lead as one of the most generous of states when it comes to incentives for installation of solar and wind systems on new or existing homes and apartments.

HB 70 by Jane Smith is another good one. This bill expands the authority of political subdivisions (parish, municipality, and any other unit of local government, including a school board and a special district) to purchase or lease “hybrid or alternative fuel vehicles.” They had the authority as provided in existing law but this new law extends the authority to include emergency vehicles and those vehicles used by law enforcement agencies. We are seeing a push here in Louisiana for conversion of vehicle fleets to compressed natural gas because of its local availability and price but we may also get some hybrid vehicles on the road with this legislation.

HCR 48 (Gisclair) is a House Resolution that Asks the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals to conduct investigations into health effects of the oil spill, subsequent cleanup and how residents should act to protect their long-term health." Such resolutions do not carry much weight but it would show recognition by the legislature that serious health problems caused by BP may exist and deserve investigation.

Sierra Club Delta Chapter wanted to go for legislation this year to set up a system for recycling of E-waste (computers, monitors, and other electronic trash) but we were limited by the five bill limit imposed on each legislator for this year’s fiscal session. We will try this one again next year. But we are in active support of the good bills listed here and we are in active opposition to the HB 563, HB 564 and SB 146. Our legislative lobbyist will be representing us at hearings and in the halls during the session. We are working together with LEAN, League of Women Voters and others to form a unified position on legislation of concern to our members and allies.

You can follow these legislative bills at and we encourage you to voice your opinion on these bills to your state legislators. Feel free to contact me at if you have questions, comments or suggestions.

Woody Martin, Chair
Sierra Club Delta Chapter

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