DALLAS — A group of Louisiana environmental groups said campaign contributions are behind Gov. Bobby Jindal's effort to halt a multi-billion environmental lawsuit seeking damages from 97 oil companies.

The coalition said at an Aug. 28 news conference in New Orleans that Jindal's gubernatorial campaigns received 231 contributions totaling $1 million from oil and gas company executives since 2003.

Anne Rolfes, executive director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, said Jindal received an average of $4,000 from each company or lobbyist.

"He's really obligated to the oil and gas industry as a whole and our point is that you're seeing that obligation play out," she said.

"There's absolutely no other explanation for why Bobby Jindal refuses to make the oil and gas industry pay for the coast that it acknowledges that it destroyed," Rolfes said. "We're saying he should not be meddling in this lawsuit because of what he owes to oil and gas."

Other groups in the coastal coalition include Levees.org, the Sierra Club, League of Women Voters, and Vietnamese American Young Leaders Association of New Orleans.

The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East filed the suit in July. The authority, which oversees flood control efforts on the east bank of the Mississippi River, contends oil and gas activities in coastal parishes destroyed wetlands that once buffered New Orleans from hurricane storm surges.

Jindal and state officials have asked the district to drop the suit and said the trustees who approved the suit may be replaced.

Jindal said the district should focus on its responsibility to protect the New Orleans region from storms and leave responsibility for the coast with the state.

Jindal spokesman Sean Lansing discounted the group's charges as a publicity stunt.

"This lawsuit is nothing but a potential billion dollar plus windfall for a handful of trial lawyers," said Jindal spokesman Sean Lansing.

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