Jun 20, 2010 7:00 PM by Chris Welty
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - A sense of helplessness and futility
pervades the Louisiana Capitol - and it's not tied to House and
Senate disagreements over the state budget. It's about the oil
spill gushing in the Gulf of Mexico.
State lawmakers have spent weeks on the House and Senate floors
railing about BP PLC, Transocean Ltd., the federal government,
President Obama and anyone else whose decisions caused the spill or
impact the cleanup.
"The crisis that we face on this coast today will be worse than
any hurricane or flood that we have ever seen," said Sen. Norby
Chabert, D-Houma, in one of his several trips to the microphone on
the Senate floor to talk about the disaster he called an
Chabert lamented a lack of respect for south Louisiana's way of
life, before saying, "The efforts to clean up have been a failure
and a joke."
But as Chabert and others make fiery speeches, what's clear is
there's little any state lawmaker can do in Baton Rouge about any
of their complaints.
They've passed resolutions objecting to the six-month moratorium
on deepwater drilling, urging Attorney General Buddy Caldwell to
file a lawsuit because of the spill and commending Louisiana's
first responders for their actions after the spill.
They've urged BP to hire Louisiana people and businesses for the
cleanup, and they've requested parish governments to do the same in
their response efforts.
They've complained about Gov. Bobby Jindal and praised him.
They've debated uncertain spending plans that could send money
to coastal parishes to help float them cash for response efforts,
until they get reimbursed by BP.
They've held hearings in the House and Senate, chock full of
charts, graphs and details of the federal, state and BP response
and complete with complaints from lawmakers about response efforts,
the use of chemical dispersants in the water and a lengthy list of
They've accused BP of slighting the Louisiana Legislature by
sending higher ranking executives to Washington for congressional
hearings, rather than to the state hearings.
"This oil is on our coast, and we deserve the same respect
Congress gets," said Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans.
They've spent no shortage of words lamenting Obama's six-month
moratorium on deepwater drilling, saying it could further devastate
Louisiana's economy, which is struggling with job losses and
business shutdowns tied to the oil spill.
"Everybody's being penalized for the mistakes or the negligence
of a few people," said Rep. Gordon Dove, R-Houma.
"We've got too many people who depend on the oil and gas
industry. Don't take it away from us," urged Rep. Ernest Wooton,
With no end to the catastrophic damage of the oil spill in sight
- and perhaps realizing the futility of the endless speeches -
senators encouraged people to pray for a resolution to the
disaster, designating a special day of prayer Sunday in Louisiana
because of the spill.
"Thus far the efforts made by mortals to try to solve the
crisis have been to no avail. It is clearly time for a miracle for
us," Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, said about the prayer day.
Besides that, lawmakers have talked about the spill - a lot
since the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig
started the massive leak. Sometimes they talk quietly and sometimes
Rep. Reed Henderson, D-Chalmette, warned of the need to "go out
and attack this oil before it destroys us."
"This is the scariest event I've ever seen in my life,"
lamented Sen. Butch Gautreaux, D-Morgan City, recently.
The words often have much merit. But after each speech, the end
result is the same: what lawmakers have done can't change what's
happening in the Gulf.
It's obviously a frustrating box in which lawmakers are stuck.