Three to watch

As Louisiana’s coastline continues it’s quiet march inland, creating unprecedented challenges for communities that don’t directly neighbor the Gulf of Mexico, new advocates are cropping up.

What makes these personalities unique is their proximity to the coast, which in these cases isn’t very close at all. Here are three voices worth keeping tabs on:

Foster Campbell —An elected member of the Public Service Commission from Bossier Parish, he has become a leading proponent of lawsuits against the oil and gas industry for coastal damages. In February, he convinced the Democratic State Central Committee to pass a resolution backing litigation against 97 oil and gas companies filed by a New Orleans-area levee board. The vote solidifies his position as one of the state’s few elected officials carrying the environmental justice banner.

“The (lawsuit) is a line drawn in the sand,” Campbell said. “It asks all of us as Louisianans: ‘Which side are you on—the special interests’ or the people’s interests?’”

Russel Honoré — The so-called “Katrina General” might have retired from the military, but now he’s leading something called the “Green Army.” The first mission involves a package of bills to be debated by state lawmakers this spring. While Honoré, a Pointe Coupee Parish native, is making a lot of noise about the sinkhole in Ascension Parish and energy exploration techniques, he is slowly folding in coastal issues as well. The so-called Green Army movement will be a true grassroots effort, he said, and if lobbyists want to join up they’ll have to do so pro bono.

“I will not be involved in anything that involves raising money,” Honoré said, adding he’s not being paid by any special interests, either.

Garret Graves — He resigned as chairman of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority in February and could soon be a candidate for Congress. The 6th District finds its electoral hub in Baton Rouge, where Graves grew up, but it also sweeps down to collect portions of northern Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes. So far, the race is heavy on candidates from the Baton Rouge area, but what separates Graves from the pack is his passion for coastal issues. Historically, only U.S. House members from the coast, in addition to Louisiana’s senators, have carried those issues with any regularity. Should he run and win, Baton Rouge would have its first coastal congressman. At least in name.

“Ultimately, this decision is going to be based upon discussions with friends and family and prayer,” he said. “I know I could represent this area well, but this is a huge decision.”

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