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Judge Tosses Coastal Louisiana Lawsuit Against Energy Companies

A U.S. District Court judge has thrown out a lawsuit against dozens of oil and gas companies that alleged their activities in south Louisiana caused billions of dollars worth of damages to coastal wetlands. However, an appeal is expected, and other similar lawsuits are still pending.

"The dismissal of this egregious suit is obviously a step forward in the right direction," said Louisiana Oil & Gas Association (LOGA) President Don Briggs. "The industry has maintained throughout the process that the SLFPA-E [Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East] was acting outside of its authority..."

According to SLFPA-E lawsuit, pipeline companies that cut thousands of miles of oil and gas canals, and laid pipelines through the state's coastal lands, should repair a damaged environmental buffer zone that protects most of the greater New Orleans region from flooding. Filed in state district court in Orleans Parish in 2013, the lawsuit alleges that about 100 pipeline/energy company defendants, large and small, compromised the integrity of Louisiana's coastal lands with activities tied to hundreds of wells and pipelines, heightening risks of hurricanes, storm surge and flooding (see Daily GPI, April 16, 2014; July 25, 2013).

However, U.S. District Judge Nannette Jolivette Brown of the Eastern District of Louisiana dismissed the lawsuit late Friday. In her ruling, Brown found fault with all four of the arguments put forth by SLFPA-E, but she did address whether the companies actually caused the alleged damage. Some of the companies named in the lawsuit agreed to settle last fall (see Daily GPI, Oct. 31, 2014).

The state and Gov. Bobby Jindal have fought the SLFPA-E action vigorously, with lawmakers last year approving legislation specifically intended to thwart the lawsuit (see Daily GPI, Dec. 17, 2013). However, late last year a state judge found the legislation to be unconstitutional (see Daily GPI, April 16, 2014; Nov. 3, 2014).

Briggs said he expects an appeal of Brown's ruling. "This same group of attorneys currently has other suits similar to this one in the courts as we speak," he said. "But no matter the future of these suits, the industry will keep to task producing consumer-ready resources, creating thousands of jobs for our workforce, and remaining committed to the safety of our communities and the preservation of our environment to which we have been entrusted."

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