BATON ROUGE — In April, St. John the Baptist Parish became the sixth Louisiana entity to file suit against state oil and gas companies, alleging damages to its coast and its wetlands.
Defendants listed in the suit are Cambridge Energy, Craig J. Sceroler Inc., Green Wilson Hicks III, King W. Lanaux, LLOG Exploration & Production, Louisiana Exploration & Drilling, Marquee, Mineral Ventures, Palace Exploration, Freeport-McMoran Oil & Gas, Shell Oil, Smith Production of Mississippi and Todd Oil of Louisiana.
Talbot, Carmouche & Marcello, a Baton Rouge law firm, filed the suit in the state's 40th Judicial District Court on behalf of the parish against the 13 oil and gas companies. The firms is representing Bridget Dinvaut, the district attorney for St. John the Baptist Parish.
St. John the Baptist attorneys also say in their suit that the damage to the coastal area will increase flooding in the area in the future.
The suit alleges the companies caused the pollution when it was developing the LaPlace and Frenier gas and oil fields, which the parish claims violated the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1978.
The parish claims in the suit that structures "were not built to withstand the expectable adverse conditions without releasing pollutants, were not prepared using best practical techniques to prevent the release of pollutants or toxic substances and were not designed and constructed to prevent leaching, control leachate production or prevent the movement of leachate away from [their facilities]."
Don Briggs, president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, opposes this suit as well as the others.
"Unfortunately, not much has changed," Briggs told the Louisiana Record. "We still are dealing with the same small group of trial lawyers going after oil and gas companies."
"Recently, St. John the Baptist became the sixth parish to file suit against oil and gas companies," Briggs said. "First, it was landowners filing frivolous lawsuits, now it’s local government and elected officials coming after the very industry that supports them. "
Other parishes that have filed suits include Cameron, Jefferson, Plaquemines, St. Bernard and Vermilion.
Briggs said his organization is doing its best to discourage other parishes from filing suit.
"We are continuing our outreach to coastal parishes and elected officials across Louisiana and encouraging them to not follow the other six parishes by filing a suit of their own," Briggs said.