Playing the Blame Game

Jackson, Mississippi's Clarion-Ledger newspaper concluded, after obtaining an email the Justice Department sent to various U.S. attorneys' offices, that "federal officials appear to be seeking proof to blame the flood of New Orleans on environmental groups." The email read, in part, "Has your district defended any cases on behalf of the (U.S.) Army Corps of Engineers against claims brought by environmental groups seeking to block or otherwise impede the Corps work on the levees protecting New Orleans?" A Justice Department spokesperson refused to comment, "because it's an internal e-mail." In related news, Senator James Inhofe introduced a bill that would allow Environmental Protection Agency administrator Stephen L. Johnson to "suspend any law governing air, water or land in responding to Hurricane Katrina." Environmental groups are concerned the measure could be applied broadly and inappropriately; "Mr. Bush has declared 41 states disaster areas as a result of the storm."


The Justice Department's e-mail may have been prompted by a [|misleading column] in the September 8 issue of National Review Online, which chastised the Sierra Club and other environmental groups for suing to halt the corps' 1996 plan to raise and fortify 303 miles of Mississippi River levees in Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas. As Mitchell notes, however, "The levees that broke causing New Orleans to flood weren't Mississippi River levees." The Sierra Club has issued its [|own response] to the National Review smear.