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US Senate panel investigating levee lawsuits by environmental groups

[JURIST] As part of a probe into the Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive] disaster the US Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee [official website] has asked Gulf Coast federal prosecutors whether they have ever had to defend the US Army Corps of Engineers against claims brought by environmental groups trying to block Corps work on the levees protecting New Orleans. Acting on the committee's behalf, the US Justice Department sent an e-mail to federal prosecutors [Clarion-Ledger report] Wednesday soliciting the information. Environmental groups suggested Friday that the exercise was part of a smear campaign, with the Sierra Club asserting in a press release that

the Bush administration is more interested in building a case to deflect blame than actually investigating what went wrong before, during, and after the crisis. These actions only underscore America's need for an independent task force - modeled after the 9-11 Commission -- to get honest facts and make recommendations for how to improve emergency prevention and management into the future.
Environmentalist campaigns against certain levees [National Review article] in the Mississippi River region and elsewhere have historically focused on their destructive impact on wetlands and wildlife, although it is unclear whether any levee-raising efforts opposed in the New Orleans area would have prevented catastrophic flooding. The Jackson Mississippi Clarion-Ledger has more.

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