Hurricane recovery efforts usually bring folks together. But the downed tree limb-lined streets of New Iberia served as the battle ground for the struggle between State Senator Troy Hebert and landfill owner Gordon Doerle over the weekend. Hebert, at the request of Iberia Parish Govenment, passed a bill this summer forbidding the operation of any landfill or waste-related activity within 5,000 feet of the runway of the Acadiana Regional Airport. Doerle’s grandfathered-in landfill is within that radius. Doerle has the storm clean-up contract for New Iberia, and he was preparing to haul debris from Gustav to his site, when the Department of Environmental Quality shut him down, citing that his special storm permit was in violation of the law pertaining to the airport.
That led to a two day hiatus, while waste sat piled at the curb, and Hurricane Ike set course for the Gulf of Mexico. While lawyers representing DEQ and Doerle argued, Doerle fumed, blaming DEQ’s action on intervention by Hebert. Doerle claims Hebert’s bill is the result of a bitterly fought Senate race last year, where Doerle supported Hebert’s opponent. “I thought the days of the good ole boys were gone,” says Doerle. “The sad thing is his (Hebert’s) personal vendetta isn’t just hurting me, it’s hurting the city of New Iberia, so Troy could have his glory. I lost the parish contract, I’m talking millions that I’ve lost so Troy can show how powerful he is.” Hebert is chairman if the Senate Natural Resources Committee in the legislature, which oversees DEQ. Doerle contends that Hebert can call the shots because he controls DEQ’s budget. “He’s a wild man, and power is going to his head,” Doerle grumbled.
Hebert says the bill was designed to protect the airport. There is no personal animosity between himself and Doerle. “Gordon is his own worst enemy,” says Hebert. “I have never once contacted DEQ about Gordon’s landfill for this storm,” he says. “We’re in crisis mode, we’re trying to clean the streets, there’s another storm coming. Why would I want to hurt my district? It’s Gordon’s failure to come to terms with the fact that his landfill is illegal. He’s in denial, just like a kid, cursing at DEQ, blaming me.”
Doerle was given a 90 day extension by DEQ on Sunday at 1 p.m. to haul debris and chip it into mulch on his site, but he must send it somewhere else to be landfilled or stored. Meanwhile his team of lawyers is gearing up to fight a lawsuit Iberia Parish Government filed against Doerle concerning the expansion of the landfill and continued operation of a pick-up station on the site. Doerle counter-sued. The hearing is scheduled for this month.