Only one of five top candidates vying for Louisiana’s open U.S. Senate seat Thursday backed Gov. John Bel Edwards’ push for litigation against the oil and gas industry for its role in eroding the state’s coast, while the others suggested the effort was the wrong approach to drum up billions for restoration projects.
The Associated Press reports that Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, a Democrat running with Edwards’ endorsement, supported the lawsuits and said Louisiana’s officials have refused to pressure the industry because of their own campaign interests.
“Politicians with tap dancing shoes on didn’t have the courage to ask the oil companies because the oil companies write big checks,” Campbell said at a forum focused on coastal land loss and restoration issues. “They ought to pay for what they damaged, pure and simple.”
U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, U.S. Rep. John Fleming and retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness, all Republicans, and Democratic lawyer Caroline Fayard disagreed that litigation was the best path.
“We’re not going to litigate our coast back into existence,” Boustany said. He added that he would “issue real caution about chasing away the companies that are so important to our state.”
Maness said federally-constructed Mississippi River levees were to blame for Louisiana’s land loss and legal actions will only “make very connected lawyers very rich.” Fleming said the oil industry should have a role in helping fight erosion, but through grants and partnerships. And Fayard said litigation is expensive and could drag out for years without offering money to combat erosion.
“It’s very easy for politicians and people to say, ‘Let’s just sue,'” she said. “Litigation’s expensive. It’s costly. It’s time consuming. And there’s no guarantees.”
Twenty-four candidates are on the Nov. 8 ballot for the seat that is open because Republican David Vitter isn’t running for re-election. But only six contenders were invited to the forum hosted by the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana. Republican Treasurer John Kennedy didn’t attend; his campaign cited a scheduling conflict.