The Louisiana Senate Commerce Committee has reportedly shelved a bill (S.B. 549) that would have shut down the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic. Sponsored by state Senator Robert Adley (R-Benton) at the request of the Louisiana Chemical Association, the bill would have blocked university law clinics that receive state money from suing government agencies, people or businesses for monetary damages, or challenging the state’s constitution.
Adley, who told the committee that Tulane receives some $45 million in state revenues each year, claimed that the school’s environmental law clinic hurt Louisiana’s economy by driving jobs out of the state with excessive litigation against industry and government agencies. According to an industry spokesperson, the chemical association apparently asked Adley to sponsor the legislation in anger over a lawsuit seeking millions in fines from Baton Rouge business interests over alleged ozone standard violations.
Tulane President Scott Cowen criticized the bill’s timing given the massive oil spill currently threatening fisheries and wildlife habitat in the Gulf of Mexico. “We are dealing with one of the most catastrophic environmental issues we’ve ever had in the history of the United States, and yet we’re here arguing about cutting off access to people, to those who couldn’t get it without the law clinic,” he was quoted as saying. See Courthouse News Service, May 25, 2010.