03/28/2008 02:48 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Environmental Degradation, Katrina Form Backdrop For LA Contests

After last night's Congressional Black Caucus Debate, John Edwards told CNN that there was too much petty bickering and no mention of New Orleans. His: "I announced my campaign from the 9th Ward of New Orleans and I think many Americans were shocked at those images," was not touched by Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.

The same night, a candidate across the aisle was stumping in the Gulf Coast. Ron Paul stopped at the Hilton in Kenner, Louisiana, and almost 600 New Orleaneans greeted him with an amended Saints cheer: "Who Dat say dey gonna beat Ron Paul? Who Dat!"

The dichotomy is that Paul's newsletter spoke out against federal Gulf Coast aid just after the levees failed, stating that relief funds would never make it to their intended target. Almost three years down the road, this is a popular sentiment for many of his constituents. Hundreds of Louisiana voters just cheered him on.

Paul's visit would have to accomplish something singular to earn delegates since the Louisiana caucus today is operating under new rules. In the Republican Party primary on the 9th, a candidate will need to earn more than half of his party's votes to count. Barring that, all delegates elected will go the national convention free to vote as they like no matter how the primaries play out.

Louisiana Republican Party Chairman Roger Villere Jr. told the Bayou Buzz that the caucus system "is for people who are politically active. The argument was we want people who are paying attention to decide who will be president, not just casual voters."

There are no longer any casual voters on the Gulf Coast. They have too much to lose. With a new governor, the legislature has already dissolved its Environmental Committee into the Natural Resources Committee. Big oil runs Louisiana despite the fact that almost a third of the Louisiana wetlands have dissolved into the Gulf of Mexico since the '20s. Saltwater intrusion from oil industry canals erodes the last line of defense before storm surge hits levees.

Not only is the president of Louisiana's chief oil lobby the former director of the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (see Environmental Committee above), Jazzfest Presented by Shell hosts a tent for America's Wetlands Campaign Sponsored by the same petrochemical company.

That makes it even more surprising that a recent AP article suggesting oil companies pay for the post 8/29 consequences of their canals ever saw the light of day. The piece quotes an oil lobbyist blaming nutria, a large ratlike creature with orange teeth, for the vanishing coastline. It's hard to believe nutria can eat the football field of wetlands that disappears every 15 minutes. Not even giant rats could do that. Nutria were imported from South America for fur farms, so that's a lagniappe (bonus) topic for Tom Tancredo or Lou Dobbs.

The mainstream media finally discussing big oil's Katrina liability shows that Louisiana's environmentalists may have finally found a political voice.

And 49 percent of Louisiana's Republican primary voters may lose theirs.