NEW ORLEANS – Forty two lawsuits filed against oil, gas and pipeline companies have returned to federal courts after those same courts said the dispute should be resolved at the state level.
In the lawsuit filed by six parishes, attorneys representing the companies said the alleged violations of the companies happened before the state laws existed.
According to nola.com, the companies said they aimed to comply with federal laws that were established during WWII, so they believe the cases should be heard in federal court.
“The Corps of Engineers approves drilling permits and plans in coastal area,” Don Briggs, Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, told the Louisiana Record. “It only makes sense for the suits to be in the federal courts.”
According to a statement from Chevron, cited by nola.com, "The energy industry has lawfully operated in Louisiana's coastal area for decades, employing thousands of Louisianans and contributing substantially to the national and local economies.”
Chevron, which has been included in the lawsuits, added that the operations “have occurred under federal supervision according to a federal framework of laws and regulations that protect the environment and allow for responsible use and development of Louisiana's coastal resources."
According to nola.com, The Louisiana Oil and Gas Association also approved the ruling, saying “Every legal option must be utilized as we fight on behalf of the hardworking men and women of the oil and gas industry and for the health of Louisiana's economy."
John Carmouche, an attorney for the parishes, said “this is a frivolous removal and they should be sanctioned for their activities,” according to nola.com.
The removal actions involve cases in Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. Bernard, St. John, Vermilion and Cameron parishes.
According to a report filed in one of the Plaquemines cases, cited by nola.com, the report notes "federally directed and authorized activities, and activities that were subject only to federal regulation."
"They were conducted when Louisiana had not even conceived of its coastal management laws, which were only adopted pursuant to federal statute in the first place," the notice said, according to nola.com.
A report noted by nola.com said there were specific problems for dozens of wells and drilling operations that occurred in part of Plaquemines Parish, including digging canals, disposal of oilfield wastes in wetlands, and other actions that damaged wetlands.
Carmouche said the oil industry didn't install a steel tank until 1993, meaning it was allegedly in violation of state law from 1980 until then, according to nola.com.
Carmouche added that, under the state law, the violations began when the companies violated permits issued beginning in 1980, or never applied for permits for actions taken after the state law went into effect.
When Gov. John Bel Edwards and Attorney General Jeff Landry became involved in the suits in 2016, they were both aiming for restoration from any judgments against the oil companies, nola.com reported.