Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Delta Chapter Legislative Update, April 3, 2012

Sierra Club Delta Chapter state legislative strategy is getting better all the time. We are working a multi part strategy that includes ongoing discussion and working with our allies in the Louisiana environmental community. We started this legislative season with active support for election of several state legislators including campaign work for Stephen Ortego, active support for Jack Montoucet, and formal endorsement of J.P. Morrell of New Orleans. We initiated two social events for legislators, one in New Orleans on March 1, and one in Baton Rouge on March 21. The purpose of these events was to get ourselves and allied legislative advocates in the same rooms with legislators to enjoy a casual evening of food and conversation. We are receiving excellent feedback from legislators for these events. In New Orleans the Green Collaborative did the bulk of the work to organize the NO event. Our legislative lobbyist Darrell Hunt deserves major credit for coming up with the whole idea and for doing the cooking at our event in Baton Rouge.

Some legislative issues we are watching closely include legislative comment and approval of the state’s recently released Coastal Master Plan and legislative review of the state’s recently released report entitled “Managing Louisiana’s Groundwater Resources.” We are also watching the legacy oilfield battle between oil industry and landowners. There are a dozen proposed bills on this subject but the one to watch is SB 528 by Sen Gerald Long. The sponsor keeps holding it back from going to hearing because of rumored negotiations going on between industry and landowners.

Another big one to watch is SB 436 by Sen Long which would require Sabine River Authority to obtain approval for out of state water sales from each parish in its territory. This goes back to the flap a few months ago about possible sale of water from Toledo Bend Reservoir to out of state (Texas) investors. The State of Louisiana has never had a consistent plan how to deal with in state or out of state sale of water. A related  bill by Sen Long is SB 495 revises powers and duties of the Ground Water Resources Commission to include surface water, not just groundwater. Compared to other states Louisiana is just getting started on how to manage its ground and surface water resources.This bill was scheduled for hearing last week but was postponed, apparently due to ongoing discussion by interested parties.

Some other bills to watch:

HB 957 provides for the disclosure of the composition of hydraulic fracturing fluids. This bill would write into law and strengthen requirements that already exist in rules recently promulgated by DNR Office of Conservation.

SB 439 by A.G. Crowe Authorizes certain parishes to create a conservation district. This would allow formation of a conservation district in Washington Parish to receive penalty monies from Temple Inland for their toxic discharge that killed the West Pearl River.

SB 450 Walsworth prohibits dumping of electronic waste such as computers, televisions, cellular phones and other electronic devices into landfills and requires DEQ to adopt by March 10, 2014 a plan and standards for the collection and recycling of all electronic waste in the state.

HCR 49 by Stephen Ortego requests the Louisiana Dept of Wildlife and Fisheries to study Bayou Teche for inclusion in the State Historic and Scenic Rivers System.

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