Louisiana's Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes want nothing to do with multiple lawsuits against the oil and natural gas industry accusing it of damage to coastal wetlands.
In a letter delivered to the governor last Friday, Terrebonne Parish President Gordon Dove points the finger at other causes of the erosion. Lafourche Parish President James Cantrelle signed on to the letter, too.
"It is scientifically proven that coastal erosion was caused primarily by the construction of levees on the Mississippi River that halted the fresh water and natural sediment deposits that were distributed through our tributaries and ecosystem for over 10,000 years, building land, marsh, etc. and holding high-salinity water back from the Gulf of Mexico," Dove told the governor.
Last month, Gov. John Bel Edwards urged the state's coastal parishes to join litigation pending against the energy industry for alleged coastal damage. Edwards said the state would sue on behalf of parishes that decline to join the litigation (see Daily GPI, Sept. 22). For years, numerous lawsuits have been filed making claims concerning coastal erosion and degradation in Louisiana (see Daily GPI, Feb. 12; Dec. 17, 2013; July 25, 2013).
"Although other coastal parishes may find it in their best interest to file suit against oil and gas companies for coastal land loss, it is not in the best interest of Terrebonne Parish for numerous reasons," Dove said in his letter asking that the state not sue the industry on behalf of his parish.
Dove blames for coastal damage actions (or inaction) by state and federal government as well as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, duck hunters, trappers, wildlife (nutria and muskrat), sugar cane farmers and the timber industry.
"I kindly ask you to please realize the effect a lawsuit such as this will have on our local economy," Dove wrote. "First of all, we would be suing our corporate citizens. Oil and gas companies own over 60% of the topography and mineral rights of Terrebonne Parish. Further, Terrebonne Parish's economy is heavily dependent on the oil and gas industry as is evidenced by the parish's nearly four-point increase in unemployment, which nearly doubled the unemployment rate, in the past couple of years with the decline in oil prices."