May 24, 2010 1:10 PM by Melissa Canone
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Showing growing impatience with the federal
government, Louisiana's top lawyer says the state will proceed with
plans to protect its wetlands from the Gulf oil spill - with or
without permission from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The action by Attorney General Buddy Caldwell could set up a
court fight over where federal jurisdiction ends and state
authority begins as officials scramble to buffer the state's
delicate coastline. Millions of gallons oil have spilled into the
Gulf of Mexico since the Deepwater Horizon disaster last month,
impacting about 60 miles of Louisiana's coast.
The Corps said it is working as quickly as possible on the
emergency permit request - but still has to follow various steps
required by federal law.
In a weekend letter to the corps commander, Attorney General
Buddy Caldwell called on the agency to avoid a court fight over
"petty jurisdictional concerns" and issue federal permits to
dredge and fill areas between barrier islands and build up sand
dams on the islands in an attempt to block the oil.
The work already has begun. Gov. Bobby Jindal has said the state
has the right to do so because of a state of emergency he declared.
Normally, such work has to be approved by the Corps. But
Caldwell said he would advise Jindal to continue if the federal
permits are not granted and would fight the federal government in
The state has complained that no decision has been issued by
Corps, even though the permit request was filed on May 11.
In his letter, Caldwell said the federal government does not
have the right to prevent state officials from doing what's
necessary to prevent damage from the spill.
Caldwell said that might be different if President Barack Obama
personally took the lead overseeing the spill containment effort.
So far, Obama has not.
The attorney general asked the Corps commander, Lt. Gen. Robert
Van Antwerp, to order the issuing of the permits.
Although the Corps has not announced whether the permits will be
issued, Caldwell said his office was recently told that some
employees in the New Orleans District office of the Corps "are
inclined to deny a routine request for a dredge and fill permit for
In a statement, the Corps said the state's application is being
processed as an emergency permit. The agency said that under
federal law, the Corps had to comment on the proposal, leading the
state to file a revised plan on May 14. The agency said the
information is now being evaluated for potential environmental
The Corps said it is working closely with the state - and will
make a decision as quickly as possible.