Louisiana Record

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Environmental compliance will drive coastal lawsuits, professor says


By Carrie Bradon | May 27, 2019

NEW ORLEANS - Louisiana's litigious culture is gaining even more national notoriety as the City of New Orleans recently sued a number of major oil and gas companies for allegedly contributing to coastal erosion. 

According to Watchdog, the decision to take legal action against such a force in the local economy will likely do more harm than good. Conversely, Mayor LaToya Cantrell alleges that without action New Orleans will find itself succumbing to devastating environmental damage. 

"The idea that communities have to choose between enforcing laws designed to provide them with basic environmental protections and jobs is one often raised by companies such as the energy companies named in these lawsuits," said Karen Sokol, an environmental law professor at Loyola University of New Orleans. "That choice, however, is a false one.

Environmental law professor Karen Sokol | http://law.loyno.edu/

"Compliance with the Louisiana State and Local Coastal Resources Management Act that these lawsuits are alleging the companies violated, just like, for example, compliance with securities laws, worker safety requirements, and so on, is a basic condition of doing business in a community," Sokol continued. "Effectively, the companies are asking communities to choose between jobs and unlawful conduct."

In the end, Sokol said, it is the duty of the government to ensure that environmental law is properly enforced.

"Government officials such as Mayor Cantrell, state attorneys general, etc., have a duty to their residents to enforce laws providing vital protections such as the state environmental statute that is the basis of these suits," Sokol said. "Otherwise, those protections are meaningless."

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