Former Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources Scott Angelle, who resigned his post right in the middle of the deepening crisis with the Assumption Parish sinkhole to run for the District 2 seat on the Louisiana Public Service Commission, has been running a curious television ad in the 12-parish district.
He is running to succeed current commissioner James Field whose term ends on Dec. 31. Field, vice-chairman of the commission, is not seeking re-election.
The district includes all the parishes of East and West Feliciana, Iberia, Lafayette, Lafourche, St. Mary and Terrebonne, and parts of East and West Baton Rouge, Iberville, Livingston and St. Martin.
Angelle’s agency was aware of possible problems with a salt dome in Assumption Parish nearly two years ago, yet he never alerted local officials. The sinkhole in the parish’s Bayou Corne community began forming on Aug. 3 and 150 area families were forced to evacuate. Angelle resigned four days later to run for PSC.
Today, the sinkhole, which has been the site of several earth tremors, is the size of several football fields—and growing.
The Department of Natural Resources issued a permit to Texas Brine to begin exploration of the dome to see if it could be mined. That permit was issued in May of 2010, just about the same time that Angelle left DNR temporarily to become interim lieutenant governor.
As soon as the sinkhole developed in August, Angelle resigned.
And curiously, Gov. Piyush Jindal has yet to make an appearance at the site of the disaster which has displaced hundreds of residents. If there are no hurricanes or Gulf oil spills, there are no national television network news cameras; ergo, no Jindal and now no Scott Angelle.
Instead, what we have been treated to is a well-edited television ad depicting Angelle as the savior of the offshore oil industry.
In this ad, you are treated to sound bites from a fiery Angelle speech about the federal offshore drilling moratorium. It’s bad enough that he sounds like the stereotypical southern politician as depicted in so many uncomplimentary old movies (the only things missing are the bourbon, the string bow tie, the white cotton suit and the spats), but the speech never happened.
But we jumped the gun and we’re not above admitting when we are wrong.
Contrary to our initial skepticism over the validity of the ad’s content, it now appears that he did indeed make the speech as depicted in his cheesy ad. It was at Lafayette’s Cajundome and the 15,000 or so in attendance were worked into an emotional lather, albeit before Angelle had taken the stage. We concede as much now. The fact that he was only one of several speakers should not detract from his soul-stirring rhetoric that was enough to conjure up memories of the Kingfish, Earl Long and George Wallace.
But make no mistake about it, it is all cheap theatrics. And make no mistake about this: Angelle had precious little to do with fighting President Obama on the drilling moratorium or with Obama’s subsequent lifting of the moratorium. That fight was led by Jindal and Sens. Mary Landrieu and David Vitter in a rare cooperative effort.
But the ad certainly makes Angelle look like a champion of the people, a true demagogue.
When Jindal took office in 2008, he retained Angelle, who was appointed DNR secretary by former Gov. Kathleen Blanco in 2004. In 2010, Jindal chose Angelle to serve as interim lieutenant governor when former Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu was elected mayor of New Orleans.
Accordingly, it would not seem much of a stretch to assume that Angelle would remain loyal to Jindal should he be elected to the PSC in November, thus extending the governor’s reach into yet another state agency.
After all, as a couple of readers comment below, immediately after Angelle’s resignation as DNR secretary, Jindal appointed him to the LSU Board of Supervisors, thus tightening his control over the board even more.
Moreover, Jindal, as our readers so quickly pointed out, also made Angelle his legislative liaison to work on behalf of oil companies who were fighting the so-called “legacy lawsuits.” The resulting legislation weakened landowners’ power to force oil companies to clean up lease sites upon leaving the sites.
Now Angelle wants to “regulate” those same companies on whose behalf he worked so diligently to weaken landowner rights.
A closer look at just who is supporting his campaign is quite revealing and offers a much clearer picture of just where Angelle’s loyalties might lie if elected.
The Public Service Commission has jurisdiction over publicly-owned utilities providing electric, water, wastewater, natural gas, and telecommunication services, as well as all the electric cooperatives in Louisiana. The LPSC also regulates intrastate transportation services including passenger carrier services, waste haulers, household goods carriers, non-consensual towing, and intrastate pipelines.
No fewer than 85 such companies or persons affiliated with industries regulated by the PSC have contributed between $1,000 and $5,000 to Angelle’s campaign since his August resignation.
Altogether, those 85 have combined to pour more than $230,000 into his campaign coffers in less than three months.
Those contributors include energy, towing, communications and transportation companies, an ambulance service, oil and gas exploration companies, shale oil fracking companies and four companies owned by Jindal’s latest appointment to the LSU Board of Supervisors Lee Mallett of Iowa, Louisiana.
Does anyone see anything wrong with this picture?