NEW ORLEANS – In what some thought may be a reversal of an earlier decision to pursue a massive lawsuit against 97 oil companies over Louisiana’s coastal land loss, the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East reaffirmed its intention to go forward with the lawsuit in a Dec. 5 meeting.
Following the decision by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E) to pursue the historic lawsuit, Governor Bobby Jindal led an effort to remove board members whose term had expired, including former chairman John Barry who was the lawsuit’s biggest supporter, as well as to defund the body.
According to the SLFPA-E, oil companies working along Louisiana’s coasts have been involved in constructing canals that have allegedly increased the amount of land loss and saltwater intrusion in coastal areas, which have in turn made the New Orleans metro area and other parts of the state more susceptible to massive flooding and other damages during catastrophic weather events such as hurricanes.
The lawsuit, which seeks billions in damages, has been deemed trial lawyer "extortion," according to oil lobby and business groups. But the litigation also has gained the support of local environmentalists.
Prior to the Dec. 5 meeting, Sandy Rosenthal, founder of Levees.org, urged supporters to contact new president SLFPA-E Tim Doody and Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority chairman Garret Graves in support of continuation of the lawsuit.
The SLFPA-E lawsuit is also seen as a precursor of lawsuits undertaken by both the Jefferson and Plaquemines Parish, and currently under consideration in St. Bernard Parish, that challenge the leases and drilling permits of many of the same defendants.
In addition to SFLPA-E’s actions, Don Briggs, president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, said in a column that the lawsuits brought by individual parishes will result in a massive blow to Louisiana’s energy dependent economy.
“At a time when Louisiana could be the nation’s leader for oil and gas production, a small group of money-hungry trial lawyers are creating an organic moratorium on drilling activity,” Briggs said. “Does it go without saying that the state of Louisiana is in need of drastic tort reform?”