Louisiana Legislative Update, May 11, 2016

State Capital w tree

We are now in week 8 of the 11 week regular session of the Louisiana legislature. Green Army has been working hard on our priority bills. Three of them came up in House Natural Resources and Environment (HNR&E) Committee today, May 11.

The updates on our priority bills are as follows:

HB 11 is Gene Reynolds bill to ban the open burning of munitions and waste explosives in Louisiana. The bill was amended several times and passed out of HNR&E committee on a close vote of 9/8. After committee passage the bill encountered tough pushback from industry. With chances of passage on the House floor not good, Rep Gene Reynolds converted the bill into a resolution to “study conditions present when munitions are burned for destruction.” The resolution requires LDEQ to study the issue. The company, Safe Harbors, which has conducted the burns made a statement in committee that they are looking into more advanced technology with which to conduct munitions burns.

HB 371 by Rep Joe Bouie prohibits the construction of schools on former waste sites. This bill is referred to the House Education Committee but has not yet been brought out by the sponsor for its first hearing. It is very late in the legislative session to start moving a bill so this one appears to be dead for this session.

HB 469 by Rep Paul Connick requiring fenceline air monitoring for industries located next to residential neighborhoods was amended to cover only those industries which have had three air permit violations in a 24 month period, the so called “bad actors.” Rep Connick did a great job of working the bill and it passed out of HNR&E committee on a vote of 17/1. But the bill has run into stiff pushback and the sponsor is having difficulty assuring the votes needed for passage on the House floor. The bill is now scheduled for House floor vote on Tuesday, May 17. Calls to your area representatives in the House will help our chances to gain passage for the amended version of this bill. You can find contact info for your state representatives by going to this link and selecting your Parish: http://house.louisiana.gov/H_Reps/H_Reps_ByParish.aspx

HB 553 by Rep Denise Marcelle would have designated five parishes (EBR, WBR, E. Feliciana, West Feliciana, & Pointe Coupee) as “critical areas of ground water concern,” would limit conflict of interest on the part of members of the regulating commission, and limit large industrial ground water withdrawals in order to protect the resource. The intention of the bill was to slow down the intrusion of salt water into the Southern Hills aquifer. The bill failed to get enough votes in HNR&E committee. The bill has now been converted to a study resolution, HCR 118 which requests LDNR Office of Conservation “to study the effects of ground water withdrawals from the Southern Hills Aquifer System.”

Under the political conditions of this legislature the conversion of our bills to study resolutions is not such a bad outcome. By proposing these pieces of legislation we have been successful in bringing wide visibility to our issues and we have gained some movement on the part of industry and regulatory agencies on correcting the issues that were raised. Many times successful passage of proposed legislation is a multi-year process. Sierra Club and Green Army can propose legislation in the future that may have better chance of passage because of visibility given to issues in previous years.

We have a significant victory in stopping HB 192 by Rep Paul Hollis. This was a dangerous bill seeking to deprive local communities of the option to prohibit plastic bags. But it was not just about plastic bags. This is part of a national push by big industry lobbying groups to outlaw local options that would prohibit anything including fracking and other industrial insults. Sierra Club and Green Army mounted an early call your legislators and lobbying effort which demonstrated significant resistance to this bill. The night before its first committee hearing we found out that HB 192 was pulled from the committee agenda and would not be considered.

We are also watching several bills by Sen Brett Allain that would reduce the number of orphaned and abandoned oil wells in Louisiana. His bills have generated significant discussion and pushback from the oil industry but they are moving through the legislature.

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