By Allison Torrence, Associate, Jenner & Block
On July 24, 2013, the Board of Commissioners of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Agency – East, sued approximately 100 oil and gas production and pipeline companies in state court. The lawsuit alleges that the defendants have been using Louisiana's coastal zone for over 100 years to extract oil and gas products. As part of the exploration and production of oil and gas in the coastal zone, the defendants dredged thousands of miles of pipeline and access canals and have altered the hydrology of the coastal area.
The Board was created to coordinate flood protection and work with local, regional, state and federal authorities to reduce the risk of flooding of the residents in its jurisdiction. The Board has jurisdiction over three districts, which include the city of New Orleans. The Board alleges that the coastal lands that have been destroyed are an integral natural component to its flood-protection system. The Board argues that coastal lands buffer populated areas from hurricane storm surge and help to reduce the intensity of hurricanes as they travel over coastal land before reaching populated areas. The complaint states that coastal lands that have historically protected the City of New Orleans have been reduced by more than half in recent decades and are at risk to lose more at an increasing rate.
The complaint contains six counts, including negligence and public and private nuisance. The Board is seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in damages as well as injunctive relief – asking the oil and gas companies to restore the coastal lands that have been destroyed. Louisiana's Governor, Bobby Jindal, quickly denounced the Board's action and demanded that the Board withdraw the lawsuit, stating in a press release that "[w]e're not going to allow a single levee board that has been hijacked by a group of trial lawyers to determine flood protection, coastal restoration and economic repercussions for the entire State of Louisiana." Board Vice President John Barry has defended the Board's decision to file the lawsuit.
Read more at Corporate Environmental Lawyer Blog by Jenner & Block LLP.
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