This is a couple weeks old now, but a commenter brought it up the other day and I thought it deserved some attention. Louisiana managed, like Kentucky is now, to escape the hell of what passes for Republican governance for eight years. With that gone, the new Louisiana governor, well, let’s just say he is a piece of work.
In September, the city of New Orleans and some surrounding parishes in south Louisiana began to prepare for at least three months of saltwater intrusion in the local water supply. President Joe Biden then declared the crisis a federal emergency and authorized funding for FEMA and other state agencies to mitigate the burgeoning crisis.
While months of extreme, record-high heat and lack of rainfall in and around the Crescent City are responsible for the crisis, some are pointing at current Louisiana Attorney General and Louisiana governor-elect Jeff Landry as partially responsible for the city’s ability to address the now circumvented crisis, as well as the decayed state of the city’s entire water infrastructure. Landry personally solicited the Louisiana State Bond Commission last year to withhold millions in funding from the New Orleans Sewage and Water Board due to the city government’s refusal to arrest and prosecute women in the wake of Louisiana’s total ban on abortion. The New Orleans Sewage and Water Board remains in desperate need of funding to tackle necessary repairs to its four water intake structures—one of which that has been inoperable for 34 years.
Despite a race against time to keep saltwater from encroaching from the Gulf of Mexico, there has been no concerted efforts by the state to improve its most populated city’s water infrastructure. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and New Orleans Homeland Security spent weeks unloading daily shipments of 36 million gallons of fresh water into the Mississippi in an attempt to dilute the river enough to prevent any further progression of the saltwater or the growing concern of the intrusion of lead into the city’s water supply. Both Jefferson Parish and Orleans Parish are in the process of building two respective pipelines to avoid both saltwater and lead contamination in their drinking water.
This ordeal unfolding during the Louisiana gubernatorial election coupled with the ascent of two Louisiana conservative GOP extremists to the highest offices in the land has sparked conversations and frustration about the fate of a city caught in the crosshairs. With reproductive justice and environmental justice acutely intersecting, Black families are especially vulnerable.
Throughout his campaign to be the next governor of Louisiana, Landry stood firmly opposed to any access to substantive abortion care for birthing people in Louisiana. Last fall, Landry personally urged the state treasurer to deny funding to any and all state-funded projects in the city of New Orleans until they enforced the abortion ban. A month later, Landry attended a public meeting through the Louisiana State Bond Commission to purposely delay funding to multiple city improvement projects–including $35 million to the New Orleans Sewage and Water Board–as he claimed the city had “thumbed its nose at the law” too many times. Per local news, that funding was specifically intended “for construction of an electrical substation to replace outdated, unreliable turbines that power the city’s drinking water, drainage and sewage systems.”
Right-wingers have always hated municipal governance because Democrats can win. Going back to the 30s at least, they liked state governance because they can buy these politicians off easier and cheaper than federal politicians and bureaucrats. Then the states can crack down on the cities within them that are not committed to fascism and white supremacy. This is what Louisiana is now seeing.