Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal told the Coastal Conservation Association Friday night (March 5) that the state has never done more to reverse the loss of its wetlands than it’s doing now.
Jindal addressed the organization at its annual convention, held this year at the Baton Rouge Hilton on the banks of the Mississippi River.
“The bottom line is this: We’re no longer studying and discussing what needs to be done,” Jindal said. “We’re doing 1,500 percent more than we were doing three years ago. We’re seeing the lowest rate of land loss that we’ve seen since the 1930s.”
That success has been a result of hard work between the federal and state governments, Jindal said. Still, Jindal acknowledged that only the federal government has the resources to accomplish the larger goal of fully restoring the coast.
“We need the resources of the federal government,” he said. “I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but the oil and gas from the Louisiana marshes provide the second-largest source of revenue to the federal government after the income tax.”
Unlike other states, Louisiana sees almost none of that money in return. Jindal said that western states get back 90 percent of the federal royalties from oil and gas drilling in their states. But in Louisiana, the state last year got back only $600,000 of the $78 billion the federal government collected on royalties from oil and gas drilled here.
“If we got the same deal as the western states, we wouldn’t need the federal government’s help (to restore the coast),” Jindal said.
A healthy coast will actually save the federal government money in the long run, Jindal said, mentioning the $150 billion the federal government spent on the area after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
“Let us spend this money today, or we’ll spend a lot more tomorrow,” Jindal said.
Jindal pointed out that of the 2,300 square miles of marsh Louisiana has seen vanish in the last century, 340 were lost during Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike.
The restoration of Louisiana’s coast is a vital part of Jindal’s agenda, but it won’t be paid for by an increase in state taxes, the governor said.
“As long as I’m your governor, we’re not raising your taxes,” Jindal said to enthusiastic applause.
Also at the CCA convention, the organization enshrined in its hall of fame former Executive Director Jeff Angers, former Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Jimmy Jenkins, founding member Albert Bankston (posthumously) and volunteer Rusty Vincent.
The convention continues through Saturday night.