The Corner

Enviros, Levees & Nola

After reading his comment this morning I confess that Tracy Mehan and I must have read different NRO articles by John Berlau on the role environmentalist litigation may have played in dealying levee projects. While Mehan accuses Berlau of penning “an impassioned defense of congressional earmarks,” I cannot find a single sentence in Berlau’s “Greens v. Levees” article that can be construed in that fashion.

Berlau’s article is about competing philosophies of river management, and says nothing about whether such philosophies should be implemented by locals or the feds. He documents environmentalist opposition to levee projects — projects that, if this LA Times story is to be believed (link via Prof. Bainbridge), would have offered New Orleans substantial protection from Hurricane Katrina’s storm surge. It’s simply a red herring to dismiss such concerns as defenses of pork barrel projects. Perhaps, as Mehan suggests, we need to rethink river management from the bottom up, but this does not mean that environmentalist litigation did not stop projects that — given the last several decades of (mis)management along the Mississippi River and Louisiana coast — might have made a difference.

I have great respect for Mehan’s publlic service in both state and federal environmental agencies. Were there more folks like him at EPA, I’d have far more confidence in our nation’s environmental policies. In this case, however, I think he’s off the mark.

Jonathan H. Adler — Jonathan H. Adler is the Johan Verhiej Memorial Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Business Law and Regulation at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

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