Presidential Hubris

From an environmental perspective, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is selling his state down the river, or more aptly into the Gulf of Mexico. It is a betrayal rooted in his determination to help protect the bottom line of his benefactor--the oil industry.

Louisiana's already decimated coastal wetlands are eroding at the rate of a football field a hour, or 16 square miles a year. Much of the damage is due to oil companies dredging channels in the marshes to pave the way for shipping lanes. In addition, Louisiana's coastal ecology is still being degraded by the residue from the massive 2010 British Petroleum (BP) oil spill in the Gulf.

Severe industry-related environmental deterioration has thus continued relatively unabated during the tenure of Jindal. Admittedly, he did have harsh words for BP in the immediate aftermath of the record-breaking spill. As time passed, however, the governor showed his true colors and revived his call for greater intensity in offshore and onshore drilling.

Recently, Jindal opposed a lawsuit filed by the State Flood Protection Board to recover hundreds of millions in damages from 88 oil companies. The Board was asking for compensation for all of Louisiana's coastal land that industry had destroyed in the last eight decades. The money would be used for restoration purposes.

Jindal complained that the lawsuit was nothing more than bullying of the oil companies by trial lawyers eager to make a big score. In accordance with his protest, the governor replaced as many Board members as he could with individuals more sympathetic to business interests. (He just couldn't quite swing a majority.)

Critics of Jindal charged that blocking the lawsuit would let oil companies off the hook and conceivably jeopardize recovery of the remaining oil spill damages owed by BP.

Mostly on procedural technicalities, a federal district court recently dismissed the lawsuit, much to Jindal and oil executives' delight, but that unfortunate decision will likely be appealed by the Board's attorneys.

To be fair, Jindal is no different from a long line of Louisiana politicians who have greased the skids for oil industry activity. But those politicians were not angling to become president of the United States. Jindal is.

Hence, the question arises: Could the governor be trusted to give a national constituency a better deal than he gave his own state's citizenry in relation to the oil industry? Keep in mind that it is not just environmentally that Louisiana as a whole has gotten the short end of the stick during the reign of Jindal and his predecessors. For all the brave talk about the economic bonanza that fossil fuels have brought to Louisiana, much of the profits have gone to Texas oilmen, and the bulk of the tax revenue to the federal government. Maybe that is why Louisiana remains one of the poorest states in the union.

There is no evidence to suggest that a Jindal who occupies the White House would in any way trim his loyalty to the fossil fuel barons. He received more than a million dollars in oil industry campaign contributions between 2001 and 2013, and he knows there is plenty more where that came from.

Major environmental challenges are looming, and growing income disparity between the very rich and everyone else is roiling the nation. These conditions, combined with his record, should be reasons enough to disqualify Governor Jindal from serious presidential consideration.