Thursday marked the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The storm ravaged the Gulf Coast, especially the city of New Orleans and further highlighted the failures of President Bush’s administration, as he allowed the victims of the Category 5 storm to languish in horrid conditions while he made television appearances praising the irresponsibly slow response to the storm. Now we have learned, thanks to a new report, that the Koch Brothers are to blame for not just the slow recovery of the region, but also some of the damage.
The American Bridge Project has released a report that found that at least some of the damage from the superstorm may not have happened were it not for the GOP’s puppet masters, Charles and David Koch. The report reveals details about a class-action lawsuit against the Koch Pipeline Company and other oil companies, accusing them of being “partly responsible for the destruction of 1 million acres of marshlands and also for millions more acres of dying marshland.” By destroying the land, they left New Orleans vulnerable, because the wetlands along the coast are the city’s natural barriers against deadly wind and storm surges. A judge dismissed the lawsuit and claimed that the plaintiffs were being “ambitious.”
On top of that, the report states that “before the hurricane made landfall, the Kochs saw opportunity to profit from a vulnerable population in need of scarce resources, calling it “the right market to restart operations” at their newly-acquired Georgia-Pacific facilities in the region. After the hurricane, Koch Industries immediately went to work taking advantage of the situation, participating in a subsidized federal bond program, and it was even investigated for price gouging during a time of crisis.”
The report also found that the Koch Brothers hindered the area’s recovery by lobbying lawmakers to vote against a bill that put limits on flood insurance. The Kochs’ group Americans For Prosperity sent a letter to lawmakers and urged them to vote against the people suffering from the effects of the storm by opposing The Homeowners Flood Insurance Affordability Act. The bill placed limits on rate increases for insurance premiums. Americans For Prosperity claimed that they weren’t trying to hurt the people who lost everything in the hurricane, because they supported an amendment that would have slowed rate increases. The problem with their defense is that the amendment they supported was tabled before they sent the letter urging lawmakers to vote against the bill.
So, the Kochs not only had a direct role in destroying the wetlands that could have prevented some of the damage, but after the people were under water and struggling to rebuild their lives, they tried to ensure insurance companies could raise their rates. In addition to the facts the report laid out, climate change was also a factor in the amount of damage Katrina caused. The Koch Brothers are the biggest backers of climate change denial in the country and have spent millions of dollars trying to prevent any type of reform from being enacted that would reduce our ecological footprint.
Ten years after Katrina, the Gulf coast still hasn’t fully recovered from the storm. Imagine what would happen if we allowed another Koch-bought politician sit in the Oval Office and govern. Imagine what would happen if another storm like Katrina made landfall – and with volatile weather conditions heightening the intensity of tropical storms, it’s unfortunately a question of when. It is a painful example of how environmental destruction by huge corporations comes back to haunt the working families of America. The need for action on climate change becomes more critical with each day that passes, lest the mistakes of the past repeat themselves on a bigger, more destructive scale.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.