In the middle of hurricane season, Republicans in Louisiana are blocking funding that would bolster flood protection in New Orleans—all because the city is resisting efforts to criminalize abortion.
Last week, the Louisiana State Bond Commission voted 7-6 to deny a line of credit meant to help New Orleans build infrastructure for drainage pumps that are a crucial component of the city’s plans to adapt to climate change. This is the second time the Commission has voted to deny the line of credit; E&E News reported both denials were issued while the city was under active flood watches. The vote comes at the urging of Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, who called New Orleans’s resistance to the state-wide abortion bans “an open defiance of the will of the people of Louisiana.”
In early July, New Orleans’s City Council unanimously passed a resolution that would prohibit the city from using municipal funds to seek out, catalog, or punish people receiving abortions or doctors providing care. Louisiana is one of 13 states that had a “trigger law”—policies designed to automatically go into effect—in place before the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. One of the bans, passed just days before the Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, has no exceptions for rape or incest and mandates punishments for abortion providers that can include prison sentences of up to 10 years, with hard labor, and/or fines anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000.
In a letter sent to the Bond Commission in July, Landry asked the Commission to defer any applications from New Orleans for any types of projects, writing that “a parish or municipality should not benefit from the hard-working taxpayers of this State while ignoring laws validly enacted by the people through their representatives.” At Thursday’s hearing, Landry doubled down, asking New Orleans officials if they have considered rescinding the resolution. “You can’t vow and solemnly swear to uphold the laws on one hand, and on the other, stand up and say, I’m not going to uphold that one,” he said. At the meeting Thursday, the Bond Commission ordered Louisiana city officials to appear at September’s meeting to talk more about the resolution.
Frequent flooding in New Orleans is exacerbated by the city’s aging infrastructure. The project the Bond Commission denied the credit line for would spend $39 million to build a new power plant to power pumps to remove rainwater from the city during storms. Many of these pumps are currently powered by much older systems, including some turbines first installed in the 1910s.
“The torrential rains have become much more frequent, and flooding that used to be caused by a tropical storm or a hurricane we are now seeing with just 3 to 4 inches of rain in no time whatsoever,” Paul Rainwater, a lobbyist with the city’s Sewerage and Water Board, which would oversee the project, told E&E. “When a warning goes out that we have a thunderstorm going through, we could have flash flooding, and in some parts of the city, you may see 2 to 3 feet of water.” (Rainwater described himself to the Commission in Thursday’s hearing defending the project as “pro-life, Catholic and Republican.”)
Landry, who has been eyeing a run for governor in 2023, has been an outspoken opponent of federal and state climate policies, as well as a climate science denier. Landry was at the forefront of a challenge from a group of Republican attorneys general to challenge the Biden administration’s use of the social cost of carbon, which the Supreme Court rejected in a rare environmental win in late May. He has repeatedly called the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change “a hoax” and claimed that sea levels have not risen at all. He has also shared misinformation around climate change on Twitter. The oil and gas industry has been one of Landry’s top campaign contributors; according to the campaign finance website OpenSecrets, the industry has given more than $850,000 to Landry over the course of his political career.
Louisiana state senator Jimmy Harris, a Democrat who represents New Orleans, told E&E that the power station Landry opposes is “a pro-life project.”
“This project is to help us to where we don’t have to drown,” he said. “Don’t tell me you love me but you’re not willing to keep me from drowning. I don’t want to hear that from nobody.”