NEW ORLEANS — U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman has granted a stay pending an appeal in a case of six defendants and coastal-permit lawsuits targeting Louisiana’s energy industry and whether state or federal laws rule.
A spokeswoman for the defendants' legal team says the activities in the case are under federal jurisdiction, not state, and the case will be appealed to a federal appeals court.
Feldman's stay order, filed June 11, comes after he made an order to remand on May 28 in the case of The Parish of Plaquemines vs. River wood Production Co., Et Al. The case is one of 43 lawsuits aimed at more than 200 oil and gas companies that have been filed in state court by six Louisiana coastal parishes and the City of New Orleans.
The plaintiffs, who have been joined by the state Department of Natural Resources as well as Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry as third-party plaintiffs, are alleging violations by the defendants — including Chevron, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil — of the State and Local Coastal Resources Management Act of 1978, claiming that activities such as dredging, drilling and waste disposal are creating land loss on the coast as well as pollution.
Feldman's first order remanded the case to the 25th Judicial District Court, but granted the defense's motion for interlocutory appeal.
A statement from Gov. John Bel Edwards' office in a May 28 article on Nola.com said the governor was happy with Feldman's decision on the motion, adding that state claims should be heard in a state court.
According to defense team spokeswoman Melissa Landry in an interview with Louisiana Record, Feldman did acknowledge that there is room for consideration and a spectrum of perspectives. The appeal, once filed, would be handled by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. The stay order, Landry said, was requested by the defendants so that the appeals court can weigh in. A stay would help avoid conflicts with the large number of similar lawsuits simultaneously being handled at the state and federal level, she said, and a pause in the cases would allow time for judicial efficiency in addressing whether the case should be in federal or state court.
“Certainly from our perspective it's critically important to allow the Fifth Circuit to weigh in and address this very important question before proceeding further,” Landry said.
The plaintiffs' case represents an attack on federally authorized oil and gas activities, Landry said. An expert report filed by the plaintiffs on April 30, 2018, alleges that the defendants' activities during World War II were done in bad faith, which would make them decades before the existence of the State and Local Coastal Resources Management Act, she said.
“These cases challenge decades of operations that were federally authorized and they were carried out according to federal laws and regulations, and we believe very strongly that they should be heard in federal court,” Landry said.