Local Groups Urge Governor to Veto ‘Conflict of Interest’ Groundwater Bill

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BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD)–Should employees of industrial companies like Exxon be able to serve on a board that oversees those commercial water usage? 

Local advocacy groups say no.

State Senator Bodi White’s (R) bill, SB 203, would drop ethics charges against a few people who served on a groundwater board while working for private companies that use the water.

The Capital Area Groundwater Commission oversees how companies use drinking water for commercial operations. 

Executive Director of Sprit and Justice with Together Louisiana Dianne Hanley says, “The commission was set up in the seventies to protect our groundwater sources.”

Senator White wants to allow those who work in the industry to serve on that board. However, others say that’s a conflict of interest.

“There is a clear conflict of interest if employees sit on the state board that regulates their employers,” said Hanley.

Sen. White said they’re experts and an asset for the board.

In a statement, he said, “We need the people who are most knowledgeable about what they are regulating and they should not be prohibited from doing it.”

Some fear this bill could have a domino effect allowing private companies to regulate themselves, leading to unsafe water supplies and excessive drilling. 

Hanely says, “So instead of using the Mississippi water for industrial use. They are using ground water which drains it from us using it for household means if it’s being filled with salt water.”

White argued that with 18 people on the board– having a few of them who in the industry wouldn’t put all the power in their hands. 

This bill soared through the legislature and will now hit Governor John Bel Edwards’ desk.

It is unclear if he will veto or sign the bill.

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