Delta Chapter State Legislative Update, May 20, 2016

State Capital w tree

There has been plenty of action in the Louisiana Legislature for Green Army and Sierra Club this week of May 16 thru 20.

Our biggest effort this week went into Rep Connick’s HB 469 to require fenceline air monitoring for industrial facilities next to residential communities. The bill had been amended down to affect only one industry (Vertex oil recycler) and still met with full on industry opposition from O&G, chemical industry, and LABI (business and industry) lobbyists. They were all around for the House floor vote on Tuesday where this much reduced bill went down to defeat 24/65. Industry in Louisiana clearly does not want any air quality monitoring going on near their facilities. Rep Connick did a great job in pushing this bill as far as possible and he may still try to introduce a relevant study resolution.

HB 371 by Rep Joe Bouie to prohibit construction of schools on toxic waste sites finally got a hearing and passed out of House Education Committee but got referred to HNR&E for hearing next week. With this double House Committee referral chances for this bill making it through the process starting this late are virtually nil but we will see how it does in the winding down days of the 2016 regular legislative session which will end on June 6.

HB 11 by Rep Gene Reynolds to ban open burning of waste munitions met with such strong industry opposition that the sponsor has turned it into a negotiated study resolution with required LDEQ sampling and a citizen’s dialog committee. We will have to check on the LDEQ sampling and watch what happens with the dialog committee.

A contest between competing visions of improvements to Oilfield Site Restoration rules pitted state Sen Brett Allain’s bills against several bills by Rep Jim Morris. Sen Allain’s effort was in response to an audit of the LDNR Office of Conservation program which found many deficiencies and limited progress in closing out abandoned oil wells. Rep Morris sponsored competing bills which were more to the liking of the oil industry lobby. Negotiations between Sen Allain and Rep Morris produced compromise legislation (Morris HB 632, 819) approved this week in Sen Natural Resources Committee which marginally improves incentives for closing out old wells.

Two resolutions of note by Rep Robbie Carter were approved in Sen Natural Resources Committee. They are HCR 110 requesting the LDWF and LDNR to study the effects of using water from Louisiana Scenic Rivers for fracking. The other is HCR 115 requesting the Office of Conservation to study the effects of ground water withdrawals from the southern Hills Aquifer system which supplies water to the Baton Rouge area. This is in response to heavy industrial withdrawals of water and possible salt water intrusion into the aquifer.

This coming week of May 23 we will be watching to see if Rep Connick files a study resolution to substitute for the failed HB 469. And we will be watching Rep Bouie’s HB 371 in HNR&E Committee. We will also be watching House and Senate action on the oilfield site restoration bills. In addition we will have display tables in the House rotunda on Tuesday May 24 on which Green Army member groups can post displays and from which we can conduct visits with legislators for citizen lobbyists.

We want to thank all of you who called and/or wrote emails to legislators to support our Green Army and Sierra Club proposed legislation. You have helped us to put forward a much increased presence and better visibility in this State legislative session. Industry is spending time and resources on the defensive to fight our bills. They know we are there and that we will speak up for a clean and healthy Louisiana.

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