Governor Blanco Stands Up To Feds--Round 1 Goes To Louisiana

| Thu Oct. 26, 2006 1:46 PM EDT

In July, Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco filed a lawsuit against the federal government, in an attempt to stop a scheduled offshore lease sale. The suit alleged that the federal government's environmental assessment of the sale failed to include damage done by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Blanco had already threatened to stop any lease sales until the federal government began paying royalties to Louisiana, something it has never done.

On Tuesday, Blanco announced that the suit had been settled, thereby avoiding a November trial. A federal judge dropped a big hint that Louisiana was going to win the lawsuit, so the federal government conceded and is going to do an up-to-date assessment of the environmental impact of the sale.

That assessment will include:

...mitigation measures that should be taken to limit damage from offshore oil and gas exploration. In turn, that should lead to more money for the state to help offset the damage. Such measures could include, for example, more money for a key highway, Louisiana 1, to offset increased offshore-related traffic on the two-lane road to Port Fourchon.

"It means that we actually now know that we can halt (drilling) activity if necessary to demand mitigation," Blanco said.

Unfortunately, Congress--busy approving rape and torture in detainee facilities--did not have time to come to an agreement about paying Louisiana its long-awaited oil and gas royalties. Both the House and the Senate have versions of a bill that would do just that, and the next step is for a compromise to be reached. That could be difficult, however, because the conflicting versions are significantly different from one another.

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