Restore Louisiana Now: Harry Shearer interviews John Barry
"It’s a very simple case, a very simple case, and that is why they’re trying to kill it through the political process, because they are scared to death that if they go to court they will lose. And when you look at the statewide implications, potentially this is the biggest environmental lawsuit in the country’s history."
A followup to last year's interview of John Barry regarding the New Orleans East Bank levee board lawsuit. Podcast here; transcript below the fold. I actually got to hear someone say start building land. And the gold standard is a cypress tree.
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Harry Shearer interviews John Barry
February 2, 2014
Harry Shearer: This is Le Show, and last August, I believe, I had a guest on this program and we discussed a news-making lawsuit that he was at the forefront of getting filed against more than 90 petroleum and oil service companies. It was a lawsuit filed by the East Bank levee board in New Orleans against these companies for the damage that they had allegedly done over a period of decades to the wetlands surrounding New Orleans, damage that made arguably New Orleans far more vulnerable to storm surge and hurricane winds. Some interesting things have happened in the interim and, unusually for a broadcast medium, we’re following up. So John Barry is my guest again today. John Barry, a distinguished author, most notably of Rising Tide but of several other nonfiction books of great investigative repute, and more to the point until recently he was a member of that East Bank levee authority that filed the lawsuit against the oil companies. At the time we talked, he was still a member of that agency. He is not now. He is a representative of a new organization called Restore Louisiana Now, and, full disclosure, I’m not talking to him as a journalist, I’m talking to him as a friend, and he recently invited me to be on the advisory board of the organization, so this is a conversation between friends. John, welcome back.
John Barry: Thanks very much. Appreciate it.
Harry Shearer: So, let’s pick up the story with what happened to you, why are you no longer on the levee board?This is a big deal. It matters not only to New Orleans but to the entire nation. The collapse of an enormous part of America’s port system is at risk. So the industry wants it fixed too. They just want taxpayers to pay for it.
John Barry: Well, first, you know, there is an old saying in Louisiana that the flag of Texaco flies over the Louisiana capital. So it’s pretty thick with politics. I was bumped from the levee board by the governor because of my involvement in the lawsuit. Several other people were also removed from the board with me. A majority of the board continues to support the lawsuit, and a majority I believe will be on the board for another two years, and this is a big deal. It matters not only to New Orleans but to the entire nation. At risk is the entire port system of Louisiana. Five of the fifteen biggest ports in the country are in Louisiana. Sixty percent of the grain exports this country makes go down the Mississippi River. Houston, Mobile, they’re connected to the Mississippi River system by the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, which is also threatened by all this. So, the collapse of an enormous part of America’s port system is at risk. It’s not just a question of Louisiana culture – and frankly it’s in the industry’s best interest, their own self-interest, as they recognize, because roughly 20% of the refining capacity in the country is in Louisiana. Almost all that, one refinery is not, but almost all that is within easy reach of a hurricane storm surge. So the industry wants it fixed too. They just want taxpayers to pay for it. And, let me say, in your introductory comments, you used the word “arguably.”
Harry Shearer: Yes.
John Barry: There is no argument over the fact that the industry caused much of the damage. There are multiple causes of the loss of the land, two thousand square miles, that’s I think a little more than the state of Delaware, and there’s also no question but that it increases the threat not only to New Orleans but to other people who live elsewhere on the Gulf Coast. The only argument is who’s going to pay to fix it?
Harry Shearer: Well, I used the word “arguably” because there have been various percentages of responsibility for the damage thrown around over the years. One is heard as high as two-thirds of the damage attributable to the building of thousands of miles of canals and pipelines by the petroleum industry through the wetlands. The most authoritative figure I’ve heard, I think, you would correct me of course, is around 38% of the damage.
John Barry: Right. You’re referring to a U.S. Geological Survey, a study which the actual number is 36.06%.
Harry Shearer: Okay.
John Barry: The reason I actually usually cite that number is partly because it’s USGS. It was actually a consortium of agencies and scientists who did that study but also, and maybe most importantly, because the industry participated in that study and industry scientists were part of that study so they basically signed off on the conclusion. So the industry itself has conceded that much, although not every member of the industry will concede that much. When you talk to a scientist with no industry ties, often the percentage goes up as to what’s attributable – as you said a moment ago, as high as two-thirds. And, you know, it’s not uniform across the state and across the coast. Some areas there’s almost no oil and gas activity and land loss is not particularly attributable to them. Other areas, as high as 90% of the land loss could be attributable to oil and gas.
Harry Shearer: Just to clarify. The other responsibility for the disappearance of the wetlands is normally laid at the feet of the leveeing of the Mississippi River by the United States Army Corps of Engineers.
John Barry: That’s correct. The levees obviously keep the river from flooding. The river actually made the land by the deposit of sediment in the river, so when you no longer have natural floods, there’s no longer any sediment going out there, so it doesn’t sustain the land. However, there are parts – the Mississippi River floodplain does not extend all the way across the state of Louisiana. It’s about two-thirds to the west and there’s plenty of land loss outside the river floodplain. If you had no levees whatsoever on the river, then that area on the western part of the state would never receive any sediment from the river from floods, so you wouldn’t expect there to be any land loss out there if it was all the levees. It’s not just the levees.
Harry Shearer: Right. And the action against the more than 90 petroleum and petroleum services companies is to hold them liable for the damage that they’ve done and to help restore the wetlands that have been destroyed. There’s never been any attempt to get the federal government to compensate Louisiana for the damage to the wetlands done by the leveeing of the Mississippi River, has there?
John Barry: No. But by the same token, the state wanted those levees built. Without those levees, Baton Rouge and New Orleans wouldn’t exist. Neither would probably the greatest concentration of petrochemical industry maybe anywhere in the world, which is pretty much between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The port system wouldn’t exist. So if you take the levees away, you lose quite a bit. You know, society as a whole decided to build those levees. And the federal government did spend 14½ billion dollars to rebuild the levees around New Orleans, so they did make some contribution.
Harry Shearer: That’s the rebuilding of the hurricane levees after –
John Barry: That’s correct.
Harry Shearer: – the 2005 flood. But we’re talking about the river levees, yeah?
John Barry: That’s right. That’s right. But in terms of the threat to the city, which is increased dramatically because of the loss of this buffer zone –
Harry Shearer: Right.
John Barry: I mean, there’s a saying down here that the levees protect the people and the land protects the levees, the land outside the levees, and that land outside the levees that protects the levees, that’s disappearing.
Harry Shearer: So let’s get back to the political situation that faces this lawsuit. You said at the beginning it’s doubtful if not impossible for Governor Jindal to take over the entire levee board and stack it with people who are opposed to this lawsuit. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but the voters in the state of Louisiana, in reforming the levee board system after Katrina, intended for these authorities to be insulated from political influence, did they not?Practically every other board in the state, its members serve at the governor’s pleasure. When they created our board, they made it impossible for the governor to remove us, and it was that insulation that allowed us to go forward. None of the other levee boards in the state would do it. They all would be immediately removed by the governor if they took action in this direction.
John Barry: Absolutely. And we are – well, we’re essentially – practically every other board in the state, its members serve at the governor’s pleasure. When they created our board, they made it impossible for the governor to remove us. Only when our terms expire can he get rid of us by not reappointing us, which is what happened to me and a couple others. And there’s also a nominating process that we all go through. The nominating committee is made up of representatives of scientific organizations and good government groups, and they’re supposed to – they advance names and the governor has to pick one of the names off that, from the nominating committee. All that to provide the political insulation that you referred to, and it was that insulation that allowed us to go forward. None of the other levee boards in the state would do it. They all would be immediately removed by the governor if they took action in this direction, which everybody in the state knows the causes.
Harry Shearer: Within the last couple of days, I think, as we’re recording this, the New Orleans Advocate reported that the president of the levee board, Tim Doody, is having a problem getting reappointed, and –
John Barry: That’s right. Right. His term expired when mine did and he was renominated by the committee, but the alternative choice that the committee gave the governor – they advanced two names for each slot – was not acceptable to the governor because the governor knows or it’s very likely that person, a retired judge, would not reject the lawsuit, so they’re trying to find a way to get rid of both nominees and start the process over again. But even if he picks up that vote, a majority of the board continues to support the lawsuit. That would make it 5-4 if he picks up a vote there. So. This is, you know, Louisiana politics at its finest. I – I, I don’t want to start talking about corruption in the narrow sense –
Harry Shearer: Perish the thought.The governor and the industry have promised that they will try to get the state legislature, which convenes March 10th, to kill the lawsuit. And what they are really saying is that the oil industry is above the law. They are saying that the industry is so powerful in the state and so tied in with the governor that they are going to go into the legislature and change the law so that the lawsuit will die.
John Barry: Yeah. What they’re really trying to do, their best chance to kill the lawsuit, is not to kill it in the board, it’s to kill it in the legislature. And the governor and the industry have promised that they will try to get the state legislature, which convenes March 10th, to kill the lawsuit. And what they are really saying is that the oil industry is above the law. They are saying that here you have a lawsuit that has already been filed in court, and it’s proceeding apace, and the industry is so powerful in the state and so tied in with the governor that they are going to go into the legislature and change the law so that the lawsuit will die. I find this, whether you support the lawsuit or oppose the lawsuit, I find this deeply offensive, that anyone thinks that they are above the law, and that’s why we started RestoreLouisianaNow.org to try to fight in the legislature. It’s a nonprofit but it’s a 501(c)4 which has no restrictions on political activity, and, you know, honestly we’re trying to raise the money so we can put some ads on the air. You know, I think we’ve got a great story, but we need to fight and it’s a tough fight. The legislature has often gone with the industry, of course, but not always. You know, I think we have a very good chance because every fact is on our side. Even the governor’s office has admitted that the industry is liable. It just makes no sense that they oppose the lawsuit. It’s pure politics. And as I say, at risk ultimately is the entire port system tied to the Mississippi River and the Gulf Coast.
Harry Shearer: When you said the lawsuit is proceeding apace, I’ve been involved in legal actions, that means it’s grinding away very slowly. Has anything, really – we haven’t gotten anywhere near the deposition stage or anything like that yet, right?
John Barry: No, no. But there is some action that I think will be politically significant. One of the oil industry trade associations filed a lawsuit against the Attorney General of the state for approving our hiring of an attorney under a contingency fee basis, and they’ve been saying for months that we don’t have the authority to file the lawsuit, and I believe that a decision in that particular action will be reached fairly quickly, prior to the legislature convening, and that will take away one of their big arguments, one of their claims. Obviously I expect to win that lawsuit. If there was a single question that was looked at before we filed, it was whether we had the authority and the legal standing to file, and there were four separate independent reviews. They all concluded that we did. So we should win that.
Harry Shearer: Now let’s turn to the legislature. First of all, although this is far from a partisan matter, is the Louisiana legislature majority Republican or Democrat?
John Barry: Republican. But as you said, this is not partisan. The second most vocal supporter of the lawsuit on the board is a Tea Party guy who described himself to the press as a right-wing extremist.
Harry Shearer: (laughs)
John Barry: This is – yeah. And he’s a good friend of mine. This is about as simple an American value system as you can think. You keep you word, you obey the law, and you take responsibility for your actions. I mean, the industry through the permitting process essentially signed contracts saying they were going to restore these areas when they were done with them. They broke their word. State law since 1980 and various other incarnations of state law through the 1980s said the same thing: Whenever you dredge these canals you need to restore them when you’re done. So they’ve broken the law, and they’re simply not taking responsibility for their action. I mean, it’s a very simple case, a very simple case, and that is why they’re trying to kill it through the political process because they are scared to death that if they go to court they will lose, and potentially when you look at the statewide implications, potentially this is the biggest environmental lawsuit in the country’s history.
Harry Shearer: Is there an amount of damages specified in the lawsuit that the levee authority’s asking?
John Barry: No. No. The lawsuit asks that they fix what they broke, go back and restore, and if they can’t, because it’s just open water, then compensate the flood authority so that it can put the money into, you know, build a better flood protection system to compensate for the increased risk. No. Since I was on in August, several parishes – in Louisiana they call counties parishes – several parishes have filed similar lawsuits, which of course gives us tremendous help politically, so we’re not isolated, and I might add these are two very Republican parishes. I’m certain at least one more parish will file in the next weeks, and probably at least three or four more parishes will file. Every one of those parishes is a Republican parish. Again, this is not a partisan issue. This is a survival issue, and it’s a question of obeying the law and keeping your word.
Harry Shearer: Has the governor taken any steps to sweep out the members of those authorities that filed those lawsuits?
John Barry: Well, those are parish officials.
Harry Shearer: Ah.
John Barry: They’re all elected.
Harry Shearer: I see.
John Barry: So he has no power over them. No other levee board in the state – and he could remove levee board members, because there he appoints them – no other levee board has filed, but parishes are elected and outside his purview.
Harry Shearer: So the Louisiana legislature, like a lot of legislatures down south, is unlike the state legislatures in, say, California or New York. They’re not full-time. They don’t meet throughout the year. They have a session that’s limited in time. This one meets, what, every year from March through June or something like that?
John Barry: Yeah, it varies a little bit, but they go in March 10th, they go out June 2nd this year. If the lawsuit survives the session, then I believe we will eventually win. I think it’ll actually never go to court. I think that if it survives the legislature, the industry will recognize its self-interest and sit down and we’ll have a statewide deal. That may have to wait for the next governor. Jindal will be out of office in a couple years.
Harry Shearer: He’s term limited, right?
John Barry: Yes. He’s also, Jindal’s popularity, I mean, his disapproval rating is sky-high as well. He’s not politically strong in this state at all anymore.HS: I asked the mayor, and he e-mailed me a terse and politically savvy response which said, “I think people should repair the things they break.”
Harry Shearer: Let’s talk, before we get into the intricacies of the legislature, about other political figures around Louisiana. I asked you last time you were here, has any official from the city of New Orleans, which has the biggest stake in all of this, in terms of the safety of the city, spoken out publicly? You said the mayor, when I asked about the mayor, you said you’d have to ask him. As you know, in the meantime I did. And he e-mailed me a terse and politically savvy response which said, “I think people should repair the things they break.” Has any member of the city council of New Orleans, people who are up for election right now as we speak, have – they have not gone on record about this lawsuit, have they?JB: There’s an election right now, and all three candidates for mayor were asked at a forum if they supported the lawsuit. All three said yes they did. It’s not really an issue in the campaign. Everybody seems to support it.
John Barry: Actually the mayor has. Recently – there’s an election, as you say, right now, and all three candidates for mayor were asked at a forum if they supported the lawsuit. All three said yes they did.
Harry Shearer: Ah!
John Barry: So that’s a little bit of news that happened since you’ve –
Harry Shearer: Ah, fantastic. And – but they haven’t –
John Barry: They haven’t. Yeah, it’s not much of an issue there. We did do – we being RestoreLouisianaNow.org, where you can go for more information, of course, got to get the plug in – we did do a poll of the southern half of the state, where most of the population is, and 74% of the people did not want the legislature to intervene in the lawsuit. They thought the court should decide it. In the New Orleans metro area, 86% felt that way, so it’s basically unanimous in the metro area. And it’s not – I mean, it’s not really an issue in the campaign. Everybody seems to support it.
Harry Shearer: Mmm. Have you been speaking to members of the legislature in this –
John Barry: Every opportunity I get.
Harry Shearer: (laughs)JB: I’m going all over the state, and, you know, I think of the great book All the King’s Men, when it opens with that road, driving on the roads. I’m spending a lot of time in the car on the roads.
HS: So you’re patronizing the very petroleum companies that you’re battling then.
JB: I’m giving a lot of money to the defendants, and I hope they pay up. Every gas station I go by is a defendant.
John Barry: It’s as if I’m running for governor. I’m going all over the state, and, you know, I think of the great book All the King’s Men, when it opens with that road, driving on the roads. I’m spending a lot of time in the car on the roads.
Harry Shearer: So you’re patronizing the very petroleum companies (laughs) that you’re battling then.
John Barry: I’m giving a lot of money to the defendants, and I hope they pay up. Every gas station I go by is a defendant, so –
Harry Shearer: (laughs)
John Barry: I don’t have much choice.
Harry Shearer: Now is the time to get an electric car. Um, has anybody made a guess at what the damages might be, or what the settlement figure might be, or is that, you don’t want to be in a position of negotiating with yourself?
John Barry: Exactly. But if you’re talking about statewide, not just – I mean, the lawsuit is for a narrow jurisdiction, just a small part of the coast. If you’re talking about the entire coast, clearly you’re talking about tens of billions of dollars. And I said that billions with a B, not millions. It’s a lot of money. But this is the entire industry, and you pay it out over a number of years, more than a decade, maybe a couple of decades, and I don’t know that that industry would even notice the difference on their bottom line. They broke it. Just pay for what you broke.
Harry Shearer: The governor’s representative, Garret Graves, head of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, the CPRA, I think that’s the – I know the initials are right, I think that’s what it stands for.
John Barry: You got it right. You nailed it.HS: Garret Graves has been the point man for the governor in opposing this lawsuit, but he keeps saying the problem that he has with this is that it interferes with this larger strategy that he talks about to get the oil companies to come to the table and deal with this problem. Has he ever gone public with what that strategy is? Or is this like Nixon’s plan to end the war?
JB: That’s what it is.
Harry Shearer: Thank you. Has been the point man for the governor in opposing this lawsuit, but he keeps saying the problem that he has with this is that it interferes with this larger strategy that he talks about to get the oil companies to come to the table and deal with this problem. Has he ever gone public with what that strategy is?
John Barry: Uh –
Harry Shearer: Or is this like Nixon’s plan to end the war?
John Barry: That’s what it is. He’s – I used to serve on the CPRA and worked closely with Garret on a lot of issues. He has never said what the secret plan is. He did make an attempt – in fact this is interesting. When we first told him what we were planning to do – which is December 2012, we didn’t file until July 2013 – we discussed the possibility of going to the trade association for the industry, for the majors, and seeing if they would make a voluntary contribution or sit down and work out a deal instead of being sued, and I talked about that and he said, “I already tried that. They’re not there yet.” So he has publicly stated that they have liability. He went to them because he thought they should pay for it. They refused to voluntarily come to the table. So he just walked away. And then we sued, and he’s violently attacking the lawsuit. There’s a disconnect there. And it’s not, the disconnect is not because there’s a secret plan, the disconnect is because the governor seems to have been with the Koch brothers in Aspen, Colorado, actually, when they all learned of the lawsuit in July, although his coastal advisor learned of it in December 2012. You know, it’s just the political power of the oil industry in the state of Louisiana has prevented the state from doing anything. The state law is perfectly clear and the state has never enforced it. The EPA says Louisiana has, quote, lowest enforcement rate, unquote, lower than other oil states like Oklahoma, lower than Texas. Our attorneys in other cases have deposed oil industry executives in which they have said, on camera, “We obey the law in Texas and we don’t pay any attention to it in Louisiana.” Because even in Texas they enforce this stuff; in Louisiana there’s no enforcement. Basically what the lawsuit says is that we want the courts to enforce the law, that we want the courts to do what the state should have been doing. It is politics in the extreme down here, and it’s a pretty brutal fight. When we filed the lawsuit, one of the attorneys said, “Well, from now on I’m having my intern start the car.”
Harry Shearer: (laughs)
John Barry: You know, I don’t have that luxury. I don’t have any interns. (laughs) Every now and then I guess I think about it.
Harry Shearer: Maybe you can ask the zoo to lend you a chimp to start the car.
John Barry: (laughs) Yeah.
Harry Shearer: When you’ve talked to members of the legislature, what’s been the response so far?
John Barry: Well, first, I think chimps may have more protection than interns these days.
Harry Shearer: (laughs) Of course they do.
John Barry: The – some of the legislators – they all understand it. Some of them say, “I’m with you,” and some of them say, “Well, you know, the governor’s got a lot of power, he has a line item veto, there’s a capital outlay budget, you know, it’s tough to go against.” The governor in Louisiana is extremely powerful. Some states, they’re less powerful, but this is one where the governor has a lot of power over spending.
Harry Shearer: Doesn’t the governor actually have some power to decide who are chairmen of the legislative committees?
John Barry: You know, that’s a very odd thing. Technically the legislature elects, the Senate elects its president and the speaker is elected by the members of the House, and yet in Louisiana by tradition the governor basically picks them, and then they have a lot of power as to what committees members serve on. It’s a very strange institution that they would voluntarily allow a governor to do that when there’s nothing in the law that gives them the power. But that’s the way it is. So, you know, some members tell you the truth, some don’t. We’ll see when the vote occurs. We are making progress. Again, we plan to advertise. If we had the money to put the ads on the air, the ads are killer ads. And we’re trying to get constituents to contact their legislators. That’s what they’re most responsive to. So if we can succeed in doing that, then we’re going to win. If we fail in that, then we’ll lose.
Harry Shearer: You sound as if you’re aware of a specific date where this may come to a vote, or is that –
John Barry: Well, we – I mean, none of that is set yet, but it’s a pretty compressed session, March 10th to June 2nd, sometime in that time frame. You’ve got, you know, basically six weeks until they convene, so it’s a pretty intense next six weeks, and when the legislature does convene, then that’ll get even more intense.
Harry Shearer: And is there any need for you in filing this suit to specify what you want the money to be used for? I mean, do you have to have a plan – unlike Garret Graves – or is that all up for grabs?The state does have a master plan to restore the coast and that has been praised by environmentalists and scientists, and the levee board would use the money to fund the projects in the state’s master plan for our jurisdiction. The master plan has no funding. It’s a great piece of paper, but until you put some money behind it, that’s all it is.
John Barry: No, we don’t. But the state does have a master plan to restore the coast and that has been praised by environmentalists and scientists, and what the money we would use it for – we being the flood protection authority, the levee board – would be to fund the projects in the state’s master plan for our jurisdiction. The master plan has no funding. It’s a great piece of paper, but until you put some money behind it, that’s all it is. And there are various versions of it at different spending levels, but the lowest spending level that would have any real impact, and even this would not stop the land loss, is 50 billion dollars. Now that’s spread out of 40 or 50 years of expenditures, so it’s a long way from all at once, but they had no prospect for anything like that kind of money, including whatever they get from the BP spill, which is really all the money that they have coming.
Harry Shearer: And in that plan is rebuilding of some land in the –
John Barry: Yes.
Harry Shearer: – wetlands area?
John Barry: Yeah, we are not, we’re not going to be able to rebuild the 2,000 square miles that has been lost, but you can slow further land loss and you can build land in strategic areas where it will be particularly useful to protect populated areas. That’s why there is a sustainable future if the money can be found. Even factoring in sea-level rise, that’s possible. And it’s not possible if there’s no money.
Harry Shearer: And what’s the – for every mile of wetlands as buffer, there’s a percentage of storm surge batted down or hurricane wind velocity that’s batted down by the presence of cypress forest, I think, but do you know that number?
The gold standard
John Barry: Well, I know a lot have been booted about, but there’s actually controversy over how much each mile affects, and it does matter a lot what it is. As you said, the best is cypress forest. There used to be a lot of cypress forest on the coast. That would have a real effect. If you’ve got nothing but marsh, that’s not going to have a huge effect, although it would have some. In between cypress forest, the gold standard, and marsh, you’ve got other things that would have more or less effect. But there’s no question there would be impacts, positive impacts, from rebuilding land, and as you said, particularly if you put cypress forest out there.
Harry Shearer: And just to be specific about it, the positive effect is decreasing the amount of storm surge and/or hurricane wind velocity that actually impact on a metropolitan area.
John Barry: That’s exactly correct. So, for example, cypress forest is going to basically eliminate any wave action, take all the wave energy out, and it also cuts down, as you said, a lot of the wind velocity. So if you don’t have waves on top of the increased height, you don’t have – both the height is much less and the energy that hits the levee system is infinitely less without that wave action. So it’s, you’re much safer.
Harry Shearer: Well, I wish you luck in talking to the legislators, and you should give them, it’s RestoreLouisianaNow.org, I’ll give it as the address for people who want to learn more about it, and good luck recovering from the remainder of your cold.
John Barry: Thank you.
Harry Shearer: And please keep us informed, and I will pass the word to the audience as to what’s happening with this really remarkable story. I think I asked you this question once before, but do you think that if Bobby Jindal were not reportedly thinking about running for president of the United States that he would be taking this position, or is this just serving people who are paying the piper?
John Barry: It’s a very good question, and I honestly don’t know the answer to it. So I’ll – you know, believe it or not, I’m still trying to work with the governor, so –
Harry Shearer: (laughs) All right then.James Carville told me after we filed the lawsuit that we had permanently changed the conversation in politics in the state of Louisiana. A lot of people have echoed that with me, and people are ready for action. And I hope that’s what happens.
John Barry: He would not be the first politician to say, “No. Hell no. What a great idea I had.” Clearly we’re not going to be working together between now and the legislature adjourning in June. But if the suit does survive the session, then I would hope he, in his wisdom, he would see to it that he would, you know, get the oil industry to sit down at the table and negotiate a solution. That’s what we wanted from the beginning, and with leadership from the governor I’m confident that we would get it. Whether – and he could still do it. If we have to wait for another governor, maybe the next governor will do it. But with leadership from the governor’s office on this issue, right now, I believe it would happen. James Carville told me after we filed the lawsuit that we had permanently changed the conversation in politics in the state of Louisiana. A lot of people have echoed that with me, and people are ready for action. And I hope that’s what happens.
Harry Shearer: A great spirit of hands across the table to end the conversation. John Barry, thanks again.
John Barry: Thank you very much, Harry.
And a follow-up note a week later:
Le Show, February 9, 2014
Harry Shearer: Now, also following up, ladies and gentleman, last week we had a discussion on this program with John Barry, late of the New Orleans East Bank levee authority, about the lawsuit that authority has filed against more than 90 oil companies and petroleum companies and oil servicing firms seeking damages for the destruction they have wrought on the coastal wetlands of Louisiana, southern Louisiana, with more than 10,000 miles of pipelines and canals they dug into the wetlands allowing salt water to intrude. And during that conversation we mentioned that Garret Graves, the head of the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, was the point man in Governor Bobby Jindal’s opposition to the lawsuit. This week we learned Garret Graves has resigned, to spend more time with – who, do you think? That’s right, his family. I’m going to put up a prize of $5,000, ladies and gentlemen, for the political public relations firm or consultant who can dream up an alternative fake explanation for resignation that will replace “I want to spend more time with my family."