BATON ROUGE (CN) – A group that represents Louisiana oil and chemical industries claims Tulane’s environmental law clinic drives jobs from the state and has recommended that its members stop corporate donations to Tulane University and stop recruiting Tulane students. President of the Louisiana Chemical Association Dan Borne wrote in an email to Tulane’s president that the “university flies cover for a unit that considers it an honor to attack state agencies and kills jobs.”
The Louisiana Chemical Association is also behind a state Senate bill up for hearing May 19 in the Commerce Committee that would forbid state funding for any university with law clinics that sue a government agency or business, seeks monetary damages, or raises state constitutional challenges.
Borne wrote in his email that the bill is the “culmination of years of frustration with Tulane and its support for the environmental law clinic” whose students and attorneys have successfully filed dozens of suits against industrial polluters and other environmental offenders on behalf of Louisiana citizens. Critics say the bill would effectively do away with most of the state’s 19 law clinics.
Tulane University President Scott Cowen called the bill “embarrassing” for the 63-member Chemical Association.
The bill was proposed by state Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, who owns a gas company and has received campaign contributions from oil and gas corporations. Adley says the bill is “sending the message that Louisiana is open for business and taxpayer dollars should not go to institutions hurting economic development.”
Cowen pointed out that Tulane University is the largest employer in Orleans Parish and one of the largest in the state.
Borne said that lobbying for the bill came after the environmental clinic pushed the EPA to enforce ozone regulations in the greater Baton Rouge area. Borne says that since Baton Rouge complies with those regulations, local industry shouldn’t have to pay millions of dollars in penalties.
Borne said the Louisiana Chemical Association targeted the law clinic because “Tulane’s environmental law clinic has consistently brought suits against industries and Louisiana state agencies.”
In his email to Tulane, Borne said he plans to complain about Tulane to Gov. Bobby Jindal.
In the late 1990s, the environmental law clinic successfully sued to stop construction of the Shintech plastic plant in a poor, mostly black neighborhood in St. James Parish. Then-Gov. Mike Foster called the clinic “a bunch of vigilantes out there to make their own law.”
The clinic’s lawsuit caused industry to complain to the Louisiana Supreme Court, which limited clinics by allowing them to represent only the very indigent.
Pointing out Tulane’s economic contributions to Louisiana, Cowen told The Associated Press: “To think that anyone would advocate damaging one of the largest employers in the state, that’s an anti-economic development agenda if I’ve ever seen one.”