Monday, May 23, 2011

Legislative Update, May 22, 2011

Sierra Club Delta Chapter

For those of you who like to watch environmental and progressive issues in the Louisiana State legislature I have identified here some proposed legislation that will be of interest to you. This includes the updated status of bills that I listed previously, and some not included before.

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. The first hearings on these bills were Wednesday, May 11. HB 563 was deferred (killed) in House Nat Res & Environment Committee. Hearing on HB 564 was cancelled and SB 146 still has not passed one committee. It looks like this one is stopped but we must stay vigilant for a resurgence in some form later in the legislative session.

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. This bill has not been heard by its first committee.

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. This bill has not been heard by its first committee.

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. This bill has not been heard by its first committee.

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. This bill has not been heard by its first committee.

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. This bill has passed the house and awaits consideration by the Senate.

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. Passed the House, now in Senate Transportation Committee.

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. Adopted by the House, reported to the Senate.

SB 70 (Karen Carter Peterson) Repeals the Louisiana Science Education Act. The Science Education Act is the one that requires LA school science classes to treat creationism and intelligent design as credible alternative theories to evolution. That law is an embarrassment to the state of Louisiana and should be repealed asap. This bill may be up for hearing on Thursday, May 26 in Senate Education Committee. Watch for hearing schedule for that committee at

Other bills of interest are:

HB 513 (Williams) Provides relative to bicycle and pedestrian traffic on roadways. Clarifies right of way of pedestrians and requires nighttime lighting front and rear for bicycles. Passed 1st committee, pending vote in House.

HB 615 (Simon) Adds geothermal energy systems to systems eligible for the wind or solar energy systems tax credit. This bill has not been heard by its first committee.

HB 622 and 623 (Jackson) Allow additional forms of taxation to support mass transit in ozone non-attainment areas. These bills have not been heard by committee.

SB 133 (Marionneaux) Provides relative to the Louisiana Smokefree Air Act. This legislation would ban smoking in any restaurant or bar. Passed 1st committee and has been referred to the Senate floor.

SB 255 (Willard-Lewis) Grants a refundable "residential energy efficiency tax credit for the qualified elderly" This bill will be heard in Sen Rev and Fiscal Affairs on Monday 5-23-11 at 2 pm.

Sierra Club Delta Chapter is 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 volunteer lobbyists for LEAN, League of Women Voters and other groups to form a unified position on legislation of concern to our members and allies.

You can follow these legislative bills at 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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