No Rehearing In Suit Alleging Oil Industry Coastal Damage – Grow Louisiana Coalition Responds
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal appeals court Wednesday dealt another defeat to a Louisiana flood board's effort to make oil and gas companies pay for damage to coastal wetlands that help protect New Orleans from hurricanes.
The suit by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East sought to hold close to 90 companies accountable for billions of dollars' worth of damage blamed on coastal drilling activity.
But a district judge dismissed the suit in 2015. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that decision in March. On Wednesday, the appeals court rejected a request for a re-hearing.
Environmentalists had hailed the suit as a means of holding the energy industry accountable.
Energy companies attacked it as an assault on a major Louisiana employer.
The federal district judge's 2015 ruling held that federal and state law provided no avenue by which the board could bring the suit.
Attorneys for the flood board declined immediate comment Wednesday evening when asked whether they might take the case to the Supreme Court.
The suit says drilling activity, including the dredging of canals, contributed to the loss of wetlands that form a hurricane buffer for the New Orleans area. Without this natural barrier, the board had to devote more time and money to protecting and maintaining levees, the board said.
Some coastal parishes are pursuing coastal damage suits in state courts on different legal grounds. Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, has urged the energy companies to work toward a settlement. Industry leaders have resisted, saying the suits are meritless.
– by AP Reporter Kevin McGill
The following is a statement from Grow Louisiana Coalition Executive Director Marc Ehrhardt regarding Wednesday’s decision by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals denying a rehearing of a 3-0 Appeals Court decision dismissing the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority – East’s lawsuit against Louisiana’s oil and natural gas industry.
“The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East’s baseless lawsuit was tossed out of court for the second time in six weeks and the third time total. We hope that it is ‘three strikes and you are out’ for these meritless lawsuits.
Publicists and commentators for this failed lawsuit fiasco have used the SLFPA-E lawsuit as a forum to unfairly characterize the work of the oil and natural gas industry in our state. They selectively interpret numbers and figures to advance their cause. They also ignore or disparage the industry’s ongoing contributions to the coast to confuse the public about the real causes of the coastal challenges we face and can address by working together.
Unnecessary litigation diverts critical time and resources away from the industry’s ongoing support of Louisiana’s coastal efforts.
To grow and prosper, Louisiana needs laws and regulations that give businesses clear parameters for operating successfully and safely in our state. The system needs to be impartial, fair and predictable. Right now, trial lawyers and some politicians are playing a legal lottery where they hope to strike it rich. Thankfully, there are a judicial system and well-meaning businesses and civic leaders who can see beyond these outrages.
A thriving, safely operating oil and natural gas industry creates jobs, produces revenue that fills government coffers and provides the largest stream of consistent funding the state has for working on the coast. It has for decades.
The industry, communities and state and federal governments are working together. The only people missing are trial lawyers.”
With more than 22,000 members, the mission of the Grow Louisiana Coalition is to raise awareness of and to rally support behind the state’s traditional economic industries in order to create a viable future for its citizens, Coalition reps said.