Waves of Change–The Impact of Political Tides on Louisiana’s Environmental Future

When Dr. Nuri Kara set out to examine university students’ thoughts and practices about digital citizenship, he concluded that most students “do not prefer to engage in political activities online because of emotional disturbance, pressure from society, and a fear of affecting their future lives in a negative way” (Kara, 172). While the internet has been known to advance political awareness and conversations, it has also played a significant role in boosting misinformation and, consequently, promoting ignorance. People are fearful of speaking their mind for consequences of backlash, making a mistake, seeming misinformed, or hurting loved ones’ feelings. However, when it comes to the future of our country and world, there needs to be a shift where young adults recognize that with the small barriers to education–a direct consequence of the internet–people need to take ownership of their own education and political awareness. Yet, Healthy Gulf understands that gaining even a basic understanding of environmental policy and the environmental crises can be complex. The following discussion aims to unpack a current story in a way that someone without any knowledge of the climate crisis and governmental policy can understand and form opinions while understanding the story in its complete context.

In the United States, the government operates under a federalist system which allows each state significant autonomy to make its own legal and policy decisions. This structure means that while there are federal regulations and standards, individual states can adapt, interpret, and enforce these according to their own priorities and needs. Due to the federalist structure, lobbyist in each state can have substantial influence over policy, and consequently, when discussing environmental policy in Louisiana, it is crucial to recognize how these local dynamics interact with broader federal policies, shaping the state’s approach to managing its natural resources and environmental challenges.

After 8 years of Louisiana having a democratic governor, this year Louisiana elected Republican, Jeff Landry to office. Landry’s electoral victory was not just a product of his political alignment, but also due to strategic early endorsements from the GOP, Donald Trump, and significant financial backing which dwarfed that of his competitors, creating an aura of inevitability around his campaign. Additionally, Landry’s rise to office was strongly influenced by his role on the Executive Committee of the Rule of Law Defense Fund, an affiliate of the Republican Attorney General Association, that summoned Trump supporters to the Capitol on January 6th. Landry has consistently pursued policies targeting the majority Black cities in Louisiana, hindering police reform efforts and retaliating against local officials who oppose his views on immigration and abortion. In 2011, he notably declined an invitation from President Barack Obama to discuss fiscal matters, and he has since advocated for legislation that would disclose juvenile criminal records, diminish protections for minority communities in Cancer Alley, and block clemency for death row inmates. Just this month he filed a bill that would abolish the state’s open records law by shielding emails, text messages, and other documents from the public. This lack of transparency has raised significant alarms from the public with Melia Cerrato, a Sunshine Legal Fellow at Tulane University’s First Amendment Law Clinic, saying that “this will create government secrecy on a level that should alarm people regardless of where they are on the political spectrum…this is bad government.”

President Donald Trump at one of his campaign rallies, with few masks and no social distancing. (Photo by: Win McNamee)

Across the vast sprawl that is Louisiana’s coast, the place where a relentlessly encroaching ocean threatens the land around it, the work of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) stands as a critical barrier against the forces of nature and human impact. However, in the last couple months, Governor Jeff Landry proposed a controversial consolidation of this vital agency with the Department of Energy and Natural Resources–a move that has sparked a flurry of debate among policymakers, environmentalists, and the citizens of Louisiana. The proposed change will have tremendous consequences for the state’s coastal preservation efforts and for environmental and energy policies. As Louisiana faces the dual challenges of coastal erosion and the need for energy development, the outcomes of this proposal could redefine the state’s environmental future.


Governor Jeff Landry’s consolidation proposal aims to merge the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) with the Department of Energy and Natural Resources. Established following hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the CPRA has significantly enhanced coastal protection and management, notably assuming responsibility for a $15 billion hurricane protection system. This plan is intended to streamline administrative processes, making environmental regulation more efficient by reducing bureaucracy and supposedly speeding up project approvals and implementation. The Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association supports the proposal, viewing it as a way to enhance industry competitiveness through a more streamlined regulatory framework. However, environmental groups like Restore the Mississippi River Delta coalition and other local organizations have expressed significant concerns.


Canal Street after Hurricane Katrina, 2005. Credit: Getty Images

On February 20th, 2024, the Bureau of Governmental Research, a private, nonprofit, independent public policy research organization, based in New Orleans, wrote a letter to Governor Landry regarding his decision. BGR expresses concern that the consolidation could lead to decreased efficiency and transparency, diluting the distinct focus and public accountability of the CPRA. The organization highlights the CPRA’s critical role in securing federal funding for coastal restoration and protection, arguing that its independence is crucial for maintaining momentum and visibility in these efforts. BGR hopes to influence the decision-making process by outlining potential risks of the proposed changes and advocating for the CPRA’s continued autonomy to ensure the effectiveness and transparency of Louisiana’s coastal protection efforts. In this letter, they stated that the governor’s memo offers “only general reasons for this new approach” and states that these reasons are: “the current separation of related coastal, energy, emergency response, and state lands functions into distinct silos creates inherent inefficiencies, limits solutions and communications, and compromises effectiveness resulting in a waste of time, effort, and resource of tax dollars.” However, the letter lists the following as reasons this bill should not go forward: the work of the CPRA and its board is distinct from the Department’s mission, The CPRA and its board provide public transparency and accountability, and the CPRA and its board can help make the case for future federal funding for the coast.

These organizations, like Healthy Gulf, fear that merging the CPRA with a department that oversees energy, including oil and gas, could lead to conflicts of interest and deprioritize the state’s critical land loss issues. Founded in 1994, Healthy Gulf strives to rectify historical environmental damage while fostering sustainable practices and policies for the Gulf’s natural and human resources. They champion a just transition from extractive to regenerative economies, emphasizing equity, environmental health, and community power. Their work includes reducing pollution, preserving wetlands, managing fisheries sustainably, and protecting wildlife. The proposed restructuring of the CPRA board, which would see the removal of several state agency heads, is particularly alarming to these groups. The merge could dilute the expertise and oversight necessary for effective coastal management, potentially impacting the implementation of vital restoration and protection projects.

At the moment, Governor Landry’s plan to merge Louisiana’s coastal management agency with the Department of Energy and Natural Resources is on hold. The proposal was not introduced as legislation before the deadline for this session, which means it is on pause in its progression. This hold may reflect the nature of governmental legislation and the intricacies of passing bills, however, this hold also reflects the influence of public and political opposition. Louisiana residents who are opposed to the proposal should view this as encouragement that their voice matters and should continue to pressure, volunteer, and fight for what they believe is important.

VOTE members advocating for legislative change (Photo by: VOTE)

For now, the future of the plan remains uncertain. As stakeholders continue to debate its implications and consider alternative approaches to managing Louisiana’s coastal and environmental issues, residents and all Americans should stay alert because this will have a direct impact on the coast and everyone in Louisiana.


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