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By Linda E. Cummings D.V.M., Ph.D., and Kai David Midboe J.D., L.L.M.
“On January 20, 2010, the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, Office of Conservation (Office of Conservation), published a Notice of Intent to promulgate Site Evaluation and Remediation Procedures (SERP) for evaluating and remediating contamination at oil and gas exploration and production (E&P) sites,” write Linda E. Cummings and Kai David Midboe. “These procedures are outlined in the E&P Site Evaluation and Remediation Procedures Manual (SERP Manual). The proposed SERP Manual closely parallels the Risk Evaluation/Corrective Action Program (RECAP) procedures for Underground Storage Tanks (USTs) developed by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ). However, there are important differences to accommodate the unique characteristics of oilfield wastes. The objective of this paper is to provide an understanding of the SERP process and how this manual will apply to and potentially impact typical E&P site investigation and remediation.”
“The remediation of contamination from old oil and gas fields (so called, “legacy” sites) has been extremely contentious in Louisiana,” explain the authors. “In Corbello v. Iowa Production, the Louisiana Supreme Court brought this issue to a head. Landowners had sued a lessee oil company for the cost of restoring their property to the conditions that existed prior to oil and gas activity. There were included allegations of contamination reaching the Chicot Aquifer. The Supreme Court ruled that the damages awarded in Corbello were not limited to the market value of the property involved. More importantly, the Court also said there was no requirement that the damages awarded actually be used to restore the property to its preexisting condition. This included remediating the alleged groundwater contamination. Because of a quirk in Louisiana law, the paying of damages to the landowner also exonerated the oil company from liability to the state for remediation.”
“The result of Corbello was a flood of new lawsuits against oil and gas companies. In 2006, the Louisiana Legislature sought to reform the procedures for recovering environmental damages arising from oilfield operations,” Cummings and Midboe state. “Act 312 provides that funds awarded in a lawsuit for environmental damage must actually be used to remediate the property. It requires the Office of Conservation to develop the most ‘feasible plan’ for evaluating and remediating the environmental damage. The SERP and SERP Manual are the procedures by which the Office of Conservation proposes to develop the most ‘feasible plan’ for evaluating and remediating typical oilfield waste sites.”
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Linda Cummings, D.V.M., Ph.D. is the Director of Toxicological Services for TEA, Inc.. Dr. Cummings is a toxicologist and veterinarian with over 15 years of experience in the areas of human health and ecological risk assessment and litigation support.
Kai David Midboe is Of Counsel and practices in McGlinchey Stafford PLLC’s Baton Rouge office. Kai handles environmental law, government relations and regulatory affairs, and has served many years in government and has been actively involved in environmental, maritime, and oil and gas policy issues.