During the 2010 BP Gulf Gusher, Governor Bobby Jindal avoided the tedium of dealing with the Louisiana Legislature that spring by hopping onto a Blackhawk helicopter and flying to a spot on the coast where he could be photographed poking crude oil that had washed into Louisiana’s marshes (he never told the task force where the oil was, according to the official report on the incident — Chapter 5, page 139 of Oil Spill Commission Report).
Jindal’s visits with his secret crude oil stash were immediately followed by a flight directly to the largest gathering of national media that day. His frenetic camera hogging and incessant yapping earned him the title of “Governor as action figure” among some bloggers and pundits. He used his performance in that crisis to, among other things, try to sell copies of his book.
Contrast Jindal’s BP disaster engagement with the Governor’s response to the sinkhole that emerged near Bayou Corne in Assumption Parish on the morning of August 3. The sinkhole resulted from the suspected collapse of a storage cavern that had been carved out of a salt dome a few thousand feet beneath the surface near Napoleonville.
In the 105 days since then, families in the vicinity of the growing sinkhole have been forced out of their homes.
It’s also been revealed that the Department of Natural Resources (then headed by LSU Board of Supervisor member and Public Service Commissioner-elect Scott Angelle) knew about possible problems with the storage cavern well over a year before residents there even began to suspect problems.
Yet, in the weeks leading up to the appearance of the sinkhole, DNR and Office of Conservation officials downplayed residents concerns about bubbles surfacing in the bayou and ground tremors.
The extent of the problems below the surface of the sinkhole and beneath the ground near LA 70 is still not know. Residents are still being kept out of their houses. Methane, oil continue to be extracted from the area and other chemicals may be involved in the mix around the sinkhole with no end in sight.
The end that is in sight is the ability of the company that owned the failed storage cavern, Texas Brine, to continue to absorb the cost of paying for the disaster that is unfolding with no end in sight.
Yet, for all this, Governor Bobby Jindal has not been able to clear time in his busy schedule for even a single stop in Assumption Parish in the 105 days since the sink hole emerged. In the 15 weeks since then, the Governor has barnstormed the country as a surrogate for Mitt Romney in Colorado, Iowa, Oklahoma, Ohio, Florida, New Hampshire and possibly other places. National news reports indicate he’s in Las Vegas now for his coronation as head of the Republican Governors Association.
But, in all that time, even when he’s been in the state to announce business deals or fire legislators from committees, he has not been able to find a compelling reason to visit the Bayou Corne sinkhole site nor visit the the families that face the very real possibility of having lost their homes permanently as a result of the shoddy work his administration did in looking out for their interests in the years leading up to what for them is an ongoing calamity.
It’s a good thing he has the job he wants. Imagine how he’d ignore the residents of Bayou Corne if he didn’t!
• • • • •
Originally published: Nov 16, 2012