May 10, 2013 04:22

Our state legislators have once again shown little concern for the plight of the thousands of people living near Lake Peigneur, siding once again with the interests of AGL Resources, an out-of-state company attempting to push forward expansion plans that some believe could lead to a sinkhole catastrophe similar to the one playing out at Bayou Corne - as if that wasn't example enough. Our state legislators have once again shown little concern for the plight of the thousands of people living near Lake Peigneur, siding once again with the interests of AGL Resources, an out-of-state company attempting to push forward expansion plans that some believe could lead to a sinkhole catastrophe similar to the one playing out at Bayou Corne - as if that wasn't example enough.

The example of the Bayou Corne sinkhole aside, the list of reason why Louisiana's lawmakers should have overwhelmingly voted in favor of Senate Bill 200, authored by Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, is immense, and so is the support its received from the public, as well as from such entities as the Iberia Parish and Vermilion Parish governments, the City of New Iberia and the Iberia Parish Sheriff's Office.

Yet, when the vote was surprisingly called in the waning hours Tuesday, SB 200 failed 15 to 20.

Nara Crowley, president of the nonprofit advocacy group Save Lake Peigneur, says Tuesday's vote was unexpected, not necessarily the turnout, but how it was hurried before the Senate, and the fact that AGL somehow seemed tipped off to what was going down that day.

"AGL had 10 lobbyists working the Senate that day," Crowley tells The IND. "We were given less than 12 hours notice, and were only able to get three people from our group there in time."

Even more disheartening, though not all too surprising based on the Legislature's record when dealing with similar Lake Peigneur related bills in recent years, is the fact that of the eight members of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, which extensively heard all the problems AGL's plans posed not only to Lake Peigneur, but also the Chicot Aquifer, only five voted in favor of SB 200. Those nay votes came from Sen. Gerald Long, the committee's chair, and Sen. Jody Amedee. Sen. Norbert Chabert was a no-show.

"We've had this happen so many times," says Crowley. "We'll think someone's going to vote one way, but then the day comes and they don't. We've gotten to the point that we just don't expect our Legislators to do what's right. The fact is they don't listen to the people, especially when there's so much outcry and it still fails. They just don't listen to what the public has to say. Why? I'm sure there's some gratuitous influence going on behind the scenes. Definitely."

This issue is nothing new to the state Legislature - the people's fight against AGL has been ongoing since the early-1990s, when the company first dredged the lake, creating its two existing caverns. Since, the fight has centered on AGL's push to expand those and develop two additional caverns, all at the risk of close to 4,000 people living nearby. Not only did all wildlife vacate the area for several years following the company's first dredging excursion, but on more than 80 occasions since 2006, residents have documented strange bubbling and foaming coming from the lake's center. The foam was tested in 2006, showing high levels of methylene chloride - a component of natural gas - yet, residents are still awaiting an explanation from AGL, not to mention the state Department of Natural Resources, which like the Legislature, seems more on the side of industry than the people it was created to protect.

Fortunately for Crowley and other lake advocates, Sen. John Alario Jr., president of the senate, despite being among those against the legislation, did approve a request for a re-vote on SB 200, which is expected to go down sometime next week.

"We'll be keeping as close a watch as possible," says Crowley. "We're thinking it'll happen either Monday or Tuesday."

The following list shows who voted for and against the bill, and those who didn't vote at all:

Yeas:
Bret Allain II
Troy E. Brown
Page Cortez
A.G. Crowe
Jack Donahue
Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb
Dale Erdey
David Heitmeir
Eric LaFleur
Fred Mills
Jean-Paul Morrell
Blade Morrish
JP Perry
Karen Carter Peterson
Rick Ward III

Nays:
John Alario Jr. (Senate President)
Robert Adley
Jody Amedee
Conrad Appel
Sharon Broome
Sherri Buffington
Dan Claitor
Rick Gallot
Ronnie Johns
Bob Kostelka
Gerald Long
Danny Martiny
Edwin Murray
Ben Nevers
Barrow Peacock
Neil Riser
Gary Smith
Gregory Tarver
Francis Thompson
Mike Walsworth

Absent:
Norby Chabert
Elbert Guillory
John R. Smith
Bodi White

 

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