Oil companies controlled erection of levees to hide polluted lands, class action claims

Michelle Massey Mar. 25, 2010, 4:44am

Companies who manufacture petroleum, chemicals, gas and other products are accused of manipulating the Pontchartrain levee system in order to hide contaminated tracts of land north of the lake.

Owners of the developed and undeveloped property claim the companies intentionally flooded their land after spending years of subjecting their property to pollution in a class action that was removed to federal court on March 18. The original lawsuit was filed Nov. 12, 2009 in the 29th Judicial District Court for the Parish of St. Charles.

OFAMCO, L.L.C. filed suit against El Paso Industrial Energy, L.P., Shell Chemical LP, Motiva Enterprises LLC, Motiva Co., BP Amoco, Pontchartrain Levee Board, State of Louisiana, Department of Environmental Quality, Shell Oil Co., Aramco Service Co., Saudi Refining, Inc and Motiva Enterprises, LLC, a joint venture between Shell Oil Co., Aramco Service Co., and Saudi Refining, Inc.

The defendants allegedly produced waste by-products which was then "intentionally, uninhibitedly, and negligently discharged" onto the lands for years. The owners state their land is now rendered uninhabitable by humans, wildlife and sea life and worthless.

OFAMCO claims the defendants conspired with the state and Pontchartrain Levee District to erect levees to the south of the defendants' property knowing it would cause inverse condemnation of the plaintiffs' property and of the lake.

The La. Department of Environmental Quality failed to regulate and enforce proper management of the hazardous waste omitted by the corporate defendants, the suit claims.

OFAMCO claims the levee system should have been continued along Lake Pontchartrain in line with the levee system in Jefferson Parish.

In addition, OFAMCO alleges the defendants attempted to create a false public impression of ecological concern by entering into secretive settlements with powerful and influential landowners in order to conceal the known pollution of the area and in order to publish false environmental assessments to environmental agencies.
The class action seeks costs of restoration, punitive damages, legal interest, and attorneys' fees.

Attorney Lawrence D. Wiedemann of the New Orleans law firm Wiedemann & Wiedemann and Boutte attorney Salvatore G. Lovecchio represent OFAMCO.

Jury trial is requested. U.S. District Judge Martin L.C. Feldman is assigned to the litigation.

Case No 2:10cv00895

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