- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 21, 2006

More than 130 women from the Louisiana-based group Women of the Storm stomped through Capitol Hill yesterday, knocking on the office doors of every Senate and House member to invite them to visit their state and support two bills in Congress aimed at saving the state’s wetlands.

Within months after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans last year, women from across the city banded together to urge lawmakers to get a sense of the devastation firsthand before they decide how to allocate funds for recovery.

“This started as an urgent request to extend what the camera lens cannot reveal,” said Anne Milling, the group’s founder. “Today our message is a simple one: Louisiana fuels and feeds the nation, and we are washing away.”

Louisiana represents a third of the nation’s oil and natural gas production through its extensive pipelines and shipping ports, and produces or ships 30 percent of the nation’s seafood. Another hurricane would put these resources in jeopardy without a wetlands barrier, said Rep. Charlie Melancon, Louisiana Democrat.

“Their mission has worked. [Representative] Jim Gibbons, [a Republican] who came two weeks before the storm, is from the Nevada desert, and he is strongly committed to restoring our wetlands. And [Representative] Mike Pence from Indiana and Senator George Allen [from Virginia, both Republicans], who have visited, are strongly committed to revenue sharing,” said Rep. Bobby Jindal, Louisiana Republican.

The House is considering a bill authored by Mr. Jindal that would give the Gulf Coast states of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas as much as 50 percent of the oil and natural gas revenues the nation receives from offshore drilling.

A Senate version of the bill, authored by the two senators from Louisiana, Mary L. Landrieu, a Democrat, and David Vitter, a Republican, would give the states 37.5 percent of the revenues beginning in 2017.

“We will rebuild our school system better and our homes stronger, but none of that will be worth it unless we restore our wetlands — Mother Nature’s natural barrier,” Mrs. Landrieu said.

Making legislative deals, even in the shadow of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, has been difficult in this election season. Although proposals to give Louisiana some oil and gas revenue have support in both the House and Senate, the bills have not been taken to conference.

“We need this money right away, not 10 years from now. Another storm could hit by then,” said Cecile Tebo, a police crisis coordinator in New Orleans and mother of two boys, who visited six members at the Capitol with travel partner Le Lang, also a native of New Orleans who lost everything.

Louisiana currently receives no portion of oil revenues. Officials have pledged to use money from offshore drilling to restore the 2,000 square miles of wetlands it has lost since 1930.

Louisiana has been fighting for revenue sharing since the 1950s. That was when Plaquemines Parish President Leander Perez asked for 100 percent of the revenue from President Eisenhower, who offered 50 percent. In the end, the state was left with nothing.

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