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Energy Interests Sue Over Louisiana Wetlands Action

The Louisiana Oil & Gas Association (LOGA) is suing the state's attorney general over a contingency fee contract that the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E) made with a law firm in support of an action against energy companies that alleges they are responsible for repairing wetlands damage.

Last summer SLFPA-E and three law firms sued, alleging that  pipeline companies that cut thousands of miles of oil and gas canals and pipelines through the state's coastal lands should repair a damaged environmental buffer zone that helps protect most of the greater New Orleans region from flooding (see Daily GPI, July 25). Plaintiffs claim that damages caused by the companies run into billions of dollars.

But right from the start, LOGA and energy companies questioned the legality of the contingency contract between SLFPA-E and its law firms. As for the lawsuit itself, they said it's a case of state bureaucrats going after the deepest pockets they can find.

Louisiana statute specifies that, should the state attorney general and his assistants be unable to represent a political subdivision of the state, the attorney general would directly hire special counsel on a hourly, rather than contingency fee, basis. The LOGA lawsuit also alleges the authorizing resolution is vague and does not provide sufficient information to establish the "real necessity" for hiring special counsel, exact hourly rates to be considered for compensation or specific types of damages sought in the SLFPA-E lawsuit.

"The attorney general acted outside his authority in allowing the [SLFPA-E] board to hire these attorneys. The resolution is vague and does not provide sufficient information to establish a 'real necessity' for the hire. Finally, the [state] Constitution requires that any funds from such a judgment must be received by the state treasury, not the board itself," said LOGA President Don Briggs. “This lawsuit attempts to correct those violations of law and reverse the attorney general's approval of that resolution."

The LOGA lawsuit was filed Friday in 19th Judicial District Court against Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell. LOGA has created a page on its website with information and documents related to the case.

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