Supporter of coastal-erosion lawsuit re-nominated to levee board



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NEW ORLEANS — A New Orleans area levee board's lawsuit against the oil industry apparently will remain alive after a coastal researcher who supports the suit was re-nominated Friday to the authority.

The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East had re-nominated Paul Kemp to the board last week, but the vote was declared invalid because he did not receive enough votes to meet the requirements of state law.

Kemp had the support of a majority of the members of the nominating committee who attended last week's meeting, but the 5-4 vote fell short of the six votes needed to make the nomination valid.

The New Orleans Advocate (http://bit.ly/1yusGF9 ) reports on a redo of that vote Friday, committee members voted 7-3 in favor of re-nominating Kemp to a technical seat on the board.

The new votes for Kemp came from one committee member who was not at last week's meeting and another who said that even though he had originally supported a different candidate, he wanted to abide by the committee's previous decision.

The latest vote means that, at least for now, Kemp will remain on the board.

Kemp, an expert in marine studies and geology, is one of two members whose terms have expired but they continue to serve until replacements are named or they are re-appointed.

The nomination goes next to Gov. Bobby Jindal, who opposes the lawsuit. Jindal has fought to remove members of the board who supported the suit over the past year, successfully replacing four commissioners with new members who oppose continuing with the case.

Kemp's term expired in July. The nominating panel, made up of representatives from universities, engineering societies, government watchdog groups and others with flood expertise, had a choice of nominating him for a technical post — for which only one nomination was to be made — or for an at-large post requiring two nominations for one slot. Nominating Kemp for the at-large post would have meant his almost certain departure, given Jindal's opposition to the lawsuit.

Kemp supporters have said his coastal expertise makes him vital to the flood authority and that the panel should re-nominate him for the technical post.

State law does not provide a way for Jindal to reject a candidate nominated for a technical seat, so it appears Kemp will remain on the board at least until next year's legislative session when the state Senate will vote on whether to confirm his appointment.

Support for Kemp in the Senate is uncertain.

Last year, senators supported a new law aimed at killing the lawsuit, which says the oil, gas and pipeline companies' dredging of canals and drilling activities contributed to the degradation of coastal wetlands that form a natural hurricane buffer for New Orleans. Backers of the litigation say the industry has had decades to remedy the situation and that the lawsuit is needed to fund coastal restoration.

A federal judge is scheduled to hear arguments in November on whether that law is constitutional and, if so, whether it will mean the end of the lawsuit.


Information from: The New Orleans Advocate, http://www.neworleansadvocate.com

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