Gen. Honoré and his Green Army are back and ready for Session 2015

by Patrick Flanagan

With the 2015 Legislative Session set to start next week, the people making up Louisiana's growing environmental movement will rally once again on the steps of the capitol Saturday for the return of the Green Army's Water Festival.


The Green Army’s berth last year came at a crucial point in the struggle to save Louisiana’s coastal wetlands from what many see as an inevitable annihilation if major changes aren’t made soon.

The Green Army’s first year on the scene ultimately played out as one of the most epic battles to date in the long-fought war against the powerful interests of the Big Oil and chemical industries over Louisiana’s coastal wetlands and waterways. With Hurricane Katrina hero/retired U.S. Army Gen. Russel Honoré as its leader, the fight for Louisiana’s environment, perhaps for the first time ever, seemed winnable. And the Green Army came out aggressive, staging its first-ever Louisiana Water Festival on the steps of the state capitol the weekend before the arrival of lawmakers and the start of the 2014 Legislative Session.

They followed up with a series of fracking protests, a 150 mile march from Grand Isle to the governor’s mansion, and even Twitter storms aimed at Gov. Bobby Jindal and his industry buddies (#FloodJindal!! #NoBPbailout!!).

But with a governor and a majority of our lawmakers keeping in-line with a century-long tradition of unabashed loyalty to big industry and their massive teams of lobbyists, 2014 would ultimately prove a difficult and frustrating year for environmental activism in Louisiana.

The biggest defeat of the 2014 session would come with the defeat of the historic, first-of-it’s-kind lawsuit filed by a New Orleans levee board attempting to hold nearly 100 oil and gas companies accountable for close to 10 decades worth of damages wrought on our coastal waters. Not even a mountain of evidence in which all signs pointed to the industry’s overwhelming role in our ever-disappearing coastline could sway our legislators from cutting ties with the likes of British Petroleum and the industry’s other big players. All last year, Louisiana lawmakers — including several from here in Acadiana (i.e., soon-to-be former state Rep./city-parish presidential candidate Joel Robideaux) — could be seen laughing and joking around with the dozen or so BP lobbyists who treated the capitol like an office throughout the 2014 session (this seemingly inappropriate cajoling would even happen just minutes before lawmakers were to cast votes that would ultimately go toward absolving their oil and gas buddies from the pesky environmentalists).

But perhaps the most mystifying aspect of last year’s legislative fight was that as far as our lawmakers are concerned, it was largely a fight against reason. It was as if our legislators were oblivious to all the evidence. And the evidence, it was mountainous: numerous studies from both the scientific community and the industry agreeing that a large chunk of Louisiana’s coastal loss was due to oil and gas activities, that the gross majority of Louisiana citizens were in favor of holding the industry accountable, and even countless internal memos from oil company execs from the last 100 years in which they repeatedly admit their culpability. Did Louisiana unknowingly elect a legislature consisting mostly of high-functioning illiterates? It would seem so.

John Barry speaking during last year's Louisiana Water Festival rally outside the state capitol in Baton Rouge.
Photo by Robin May

The 2014 session is now long gone, and the Big Oil lawsuit is mostly done-for as it awaits the slow process of judicial interpretation on the constitutionality of the suit and all the pro-industry legislation passed last year aimed at its demise. But there’s still hope. While the levee board suit may be near-dead, the Green Army remains very much alive, and when the 2015 session gets underway next week, they'll continue their fight for legislative action to save our coast and make our drinking water safe.

And like last year, the Green Army will once again gather on the steps of the capitol in Baton Rouge as the Louisiana Water Festival returns for its second year this weekend, kicking-off at noon on Saturday, April 11.

From the event’s flyer:

Five days after the floodwalls in New Orleans broke during Katrina US Army General Russell Honoré and the Louisiana National arrived in the city to restore order, and start recovery operations. General Honoré quickly restored order and was able to get things done despite the inadequate national, state and local political leadership in place at the time, and despite the immensity of the disaster.

It seems events unfold nearly every day that point to the continuing destruction of our clean air, our water quality and our coastal environment caused by unregulated and exploitative oil, gas and chemical industries in Louisiana and its coastal waters.

Retired General Honoré has chosen to lead a broad coalition of environmental, civic and community organizations in drawing attention to these issues and in forming a legislative agenda to tackle these critical problems.

The Green ARMY event on April 11 is an opportunity for people to show their support for legislative action to protect our water, our air, and our coastal environment by holding industry responsible for the damage they’ve done. Please join us on Saturday, April 11, 2015, at the Louisiana State Capitol.

Saturday's event will also feature a who's-who list of activists to discuss all the various aspects of Louisiana's growing environmental movement:

- Louisiana Environmental Action Network’s Marylee Orr

- JohnBarry, Restore LouisianaNow

- SierraClub’s Darryl Malek-Wiley

- AnneRolfes of LouisianaBucket Brigade

- Dr.Brian Salvatore will discuss the open burn at Camp Minden

- SandraSlifer will discuss fracking in St. Tammany Parish

- KeithAdams and Martha Huckaby of St. Rose Community One Voice

- JeanFrancisco of Concerned Citizens of Alexandria

- Monique Harden will discuss“Safe School Sites

For more information on this year's event go here. And check out the results of the Green Army's 2014 lawmaker scorecards here.