Legal watchdog's Venable foresees no winners - other than trial lawyers - in coastal erosion litigation

By Carrie Bradon | May 9, 2019

Louisiana is entrenched in a debilitating culture of litigation, as residents and businesses regularly sue one another in the hopes of a payout.

But now New Orleans is picking a fight with a bigger opponent: the powerful gas and oil industries. The city recently joined six other parishes that are alleging energy companies are to blame for coastal land loss caused by erosion.

According to The Advocate, the lawsuit was filed in the Orleans Parish Civil District Court. The suit alleges that New Orleans has been harmed by the operations of energy companies such as Entergy New Orleans, Chevron and ExxonMobil. 

The lawsuit is seeking payment for the alleged damage and defendants include Apache Louisiana Minerals LLC, Aspect Energy LLC, Chaparral Energy LLC, Chevron, Collins Pipeline, EOG Resources, ExxonMobil Pipeline Co., Gulf South Pipeline Co., Southern Natural Gas Co. and Whiting Oil and Gas Corp. Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch (LLAW) is fearful for the city in going after such a major player in the local economy.

Lana Venable, executive director of LLAW  

“It is disappointing that city leaders have decided to engage the City of New Orleans in the fray of coastal lawsuits targeting Louisiana’s job-creating energy industry,” Lana Venable, executive director of LLAW, told Louisiana Record.

The lawsuit against the energy companies claims that coastal erosion is occurring due to a lack of care in operations and maintenance, alleging that the City of New Orleans is being caused to suffer in areas including commerce, transportation, culture and economy. Venable believes that the courtroom is no place to settle a matter such as this and that lawsuits in general are a poor method of resolution.

“Courts are designed to be forums for resolving specific disputes between parties to a case, not to weigh public policy outcomes and impose broad regulatory rules,” she said. “Even if the city is successful in these lawsuits, the only clear winners will be the trial attorneys who stand to make millions. There is no guarantee that any damages recovered would actually be used for coastal restoration activities.”

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