Monday, September 26, 2005

Levees a WATERloo?

Levees a WATERloo for the environmental movement?

There’s been a notable silence from the environmental community lately. Early on in the Katrina disaster, there was a little noise about the need for wetlands as a way to minimize storm surge. Even that has dissipated lately.

The Wall Street Journal has an op-ed today that looks further at environmental lawsuits and their role in the failure to establish effective protection around New Orleans. A couple of sentences really jumped out at me:

That's why litigation delay can kill necessary projects. However responsibility is apportioned, but for the lawsuit, New Orleans would have had the hurricane barrier.


A Sierra Club attorney complained, "Why are they trying to smear us like this?" The answer: because some federal officials think that the Corps can act more rationally if freed from interference by environmentalists.

The crisis of Katrina and Rita highlights a significant underlying crosscurrent affecting our daily lives. That crosscurrent runs further than just the New Orleans Levee system. Environmental issues run deeply into our national energy issues. If the prospect of $5.00 gas bothers people, it was once an argument of the environmental community that our gasoline prices were too cheap and that higher prices – through taxes or other means – would encourage conservation.

Environmental issues are a key factor in refining capacity. The same is true for domestic production, whether off shore or Alaskan supply.

The environmentalist movement has some tough choices to make soon. If they truly believe that levees are bad for the environment, fighting for that belief will be spitting into hurricane force winds in the New Orleans area.

We may soon see how pragmatic that movement can be.

I have written several pieces over the last few weeks about the levee situation in Louisiana. Some of those posts are now difficult to find in the archives. For the sake of offering easy access to that information to people who may be looking at the levee question as it has developed, here are links to my previous posts on levees.

9/4 Original post with predictions about Levees being a big issue
9/4 Reader Feedback on Katrina and levees
9/8 Follow up on Levee Issue post
9/11 Timeline on Levee breaks is stunning
9/17 Where'd the Levee money go? Follow the indictments