A massive environmental lawsuit has been filed against 100 oil and gas companies in Louisiana alleging massive destruction of Louisiana's coast.
As over 2,000 miles of coast have been eaten away over the last 80 or so years, the state and federal government, oil and gas companies, activists and residents battled and bickered over funding the future of the state’s coast. So far, little has been accomplished.
John Barry, an author cum activist, hopes to change that.
Last July, Barry — then a member of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority–East (SLFPA-e), a small Louisiana agency that oversees flood protection systems around New Orleans — helped lead the authority in filing suit against nearly 100 oil and gas companies. He and his cohort alleged that the companies, which ranged from state-based pipeline service providers to subsidiaries of multinational corporations like ExxonMobil, were responsible for decades of degradation to Louisiana’s coast. They said through exploration, canal dredging and drilling, the companies destroyed much of the state’s coast. And they claimed that as the governmental body tasked with overseeing flood protection for the New Orleans area, they had a responsibility to restore that coast in order to better prevent Louisiana's low-lying areas from being inundated during storms.
An angry Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is not happy with the lawsuit. His allies in the legislature are rushing bills through in an attempt to kill the lawsuit and he is attempting to stack the flood protection authorities with allies in an attempt to ensure that this does not happen again. At least one of the legislators involved, Senator Robert Adley, owns an oil and gas consulting firm.
Louisiana Attorney General James "Buddy" Caldwell (R) has the authority to sign off on such suits instigated by political subdivisions. The Louisiana Oil & Gas Association attempted to file a lawsuit blocking Caldwell's authority to sign off on such suits; it was dismissed yesterday.
Calling the lawsuit filed by Louisiana Oil & Gas Association president Don Briggs “frivolous,” 19th Judicial District Court Judge Janice Clark confirmed that Louisiana Attorney General James D. “Buddy” Caldwell does have constitutional authority to approve any and all resolutions for lawsuits brought by political subdivisions in the state of Louisiana. Just as Attorney General Caldwell has insisted all along, Judge Clark ruled Caldwell did indeed follow Louisiana statutes in approving the form of last year’s resolution brought by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East against 97 oil and gas companies. SLFPAE is suing the energy companies to force them to correct decades of environmental damage to Louisiana's coastline, damage the companies had agreed to repair as part of their drilling permits.The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority has come out against the suit. They say it would interfere with their work in restoring the coast. They have won praise from the environmental community for their work; however, it is obvious that what they have done is merely the tip of the iceberg. The Al-Jazeera article notes that there is a sense of panic in Louisiana over the massive erosion of the state.
From Al-Jazeera, even $50 billion might not be enough to restore Louisiana's wetlands.
But even if the CPRA or Barry somehow managed to get $50 billion to restore the coast, there’s a lot of disagreement over whether that would really fix the problems Louisiana faces. Even if all the canals were filled, plants and animals trucked in and sediment replaced, Louisiana would still lose miles of land every year.The article notes that there are several other factors contributing to the degradation of Louisiana's coast. Barry has set up a website, Restore Louisiana Now, where he acknowledges that, but says that oil and gas interests should still have to pay to restore Louisiana's wetlands. He writes:
It took nature 6,000 years to create the Louisiana coast, yet only 75 years for humans to destroy one-third of it. Already, 1,900 square miles of coastal lands have melted into the Gulf of Mexico, and that damage has put New Orleans and the entire region on the verge of collapse. The destruction of land is continuing, and if this area washes away, so will the economy and heart of the entire state -- and the nation will pay a price as well.While Barry may not get anywhere with his present lawsuit due to Jindal's gerrymandering of the board along with a compliant legislature, it will lay the groundwork for future lawsuits against oil and gas companies. The issue will not go away no matter how hard Jindal and his allies try to sweep it under the rug.
The oil industry is not the only party responsible for this destruction, but they are accountable for much of it. RLN will initially devote itself to preventing political interference in the lawsuit filed by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East against 97 oil, gas, and pipeline companies for the destruction of the coast -- the region’s first line of hurricane protection.
The message of these lawsuits is simple; obey the law, keep your word and fix what you broke. According to a recent poll, 93% of coastal Louisiana residents say that oil, gas and pipeline companies, not taxpayers, should pay to fix their share of the damage to the coastal wetlands. RLN proudly stands with those residents.