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Green Army's First March

Lt. Gen. Russell Honoré Leads Enivro Group Aiming to Influence Legislature

Retired Lieutenant General Russell Honoré got famous after Katrina for restoring a semblance of order to the streets of New Orleans.  Mayor C. Ray Nagin called him “one John Wayne dude,” and he was branded “the Ragin’ Cajun” for his bravado.


On the steps of the capitol on Saturday (March 8), the praises -- and the rage -- continued. Instead of looting and evacuations, he yelled about sinkholes and contaminated lakes. Then he played washboard to a Cajun band’s rendition of “Don’t Mess with my Bayou.”


It was the first ever Louisiana Water Festival – a rally to mark the beginning of the 2014 Legislative session, as well as a roll call for Honoré’s newly dubbed “Green Army.”  He taught the crowd “hooah” and hollered to the hundreds assembled. He dubbed speakers from various corners of the state’s environmental community “brigadier commanders” of the army. 


“Baton Rouge water is under attack!” Honoré yelled as he introduced Hayes Town, Jr., of Baton Rouge Citizens to Save Our Water, which contends that industry there has induced saltwater into drinking water aquifers. “The industry around Baton Rouge uses 80 million gallons of groundwater a day.  That’s 80 million,” said Town.  “It’s not really necessary.  They could get the water out the river just as the plants do below Baton Rouge.”


The goals of the groups varied with their geography, from the Baton Rouge aquifer to the salt caverns of Assumption Parish, but, in most cases, the focus was on the state’s historically cozy relationship with industry. 


“The influence of the oil and gas bidness brings a lot of jobs to Louisiana,” Honoré conceded between speeches by the Ouachita Riverkeeper and Sandy Rosenthal of Then he went on the offensive, apparently against Senator Robert Adley (R-Benton) who has filed bills to halt recent legislation against 99 oil and gas companies that plaintiffs allege have caused damage to the coast. 


“A law of recusal would not allow this man to do his bidness on the senate floor!,” Honoré hollered.  “That must stop!  He is the CEO of a gas company that will do everything to kill anything in every committee that might threaten him and his buddies from getting richer and richer and richer.” 


That sentiment was echoed by many of the speakers, including Byron Encalade of the Louisiana Oystermen Association. 


“If we don’t have clean water coming down this river, these coastal communities can’t survive and then we’re going to have to change the name of our state. It’s no longer gonna be the Bayou State.  They gonna call it the earl company state. Because this building may be owned by us, but it’s being run by earl and gas companies. Make no mistake about it,” he said.


Both John Barry, a former officer with the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority – East, and Steve Murchie of the Gulf Restoration Network, used the podium to advance the oil and gas canal lawsuits. 


“400 to 600 square miles of wetlands have been lost due to the oil and gas industry,” Murchie said. “And instead of our governor and our state legislature expecting the oil and gas industry to fix the coast they broke, we are going to spend 61 million dollars of our taxpayer money this year as part of the annual plan to plug oil and gas canals.  Those oil and gas canals, those companies ought to be fixing (them), not us taxpayers.”


The three hundred in the crowd came in buses from Lafayette and New Orleans, as well as the Baton Rouge area.  A few waved “green army” versions of the Louisiana state flag.  One man’s sign said, “Fix dat coast.”


Katrina-level emotions ran high when Glo Conlin, a resident of Bayou Corne, talked about her displacement due to the ongoing sinkhole disaster in Assumption Parish, which began in 2012. “I want to tell you as a Mimi.  I’m a Mimi, with rose colored glasses…When you leave, and you go home tonight, just imagine if you your children and your grandchildren could never go back to your home again.  Just imagine that.  And that’s where we are.  And any help would be appreciated,” she said in tears.


Representatives of Louisiana’s energy sector haven’t ignored the efforts of Honoré’s Green Army.  Don Briggs, president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, recently said at a luncheon in Lafayette, “We are under attack from these people, and we have to push back.”


Tulane environmental law professor Oliver Houck calls the Green Army’s presence “new and impressive.”


“Starting with the BP blowout and continuing with the levee board case and a series of oil and chemical mishaps, the god-like status of the industry is waning,” Houck said.  But, recognizing the history of the state, he says it could take years for the legislature to shift its attitude towards natural resources.  He says that realistically, the change “may be driven forward as much by economic imperatives as environmental ones, including saving New Orleans and getting a fair share of now-exempted and squandered oil and gas revenues.”


The legislative session began Monday and ends June 2.  

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