The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has dismissed the state’s lawsuit against oil companies. The Southeast Flood Protection Authority-East sued oil companies blaming them for coastal erosion caused by the digging of canals.
A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a 2015 decision by U.S. District Court Judge Nannette Jolivette Brown that the lawsuit filed by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East involved enforcement of federal laws and should be heard in her courtroom, rather than returned to a state court.
And the panel also agreed with Brown that the levee authority failed to show that the 97 oil and gas companies originally included in the suit had a duty under the three laws — the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, the Clean Water Act and the Coastal Zone Management Act — to be required to repair the damage caused by their operations, including the refilling of the canals.
The decision was hailed by a variety of organizations representing the oil and gas firms named in the suit, with several repeating their contention that the suit was a frivolous attack thought up by trial lawyers to earn a portion of what might have been billions of dollars in damages.
There are similar lawsuits pending by 4 parishes and possibly the state that are still active. Governor John Bel Edwards wants the state to join the “legacy lawsuits” while Attorney General Jeff Landry doesn’t.
As you can imagine, the oil and gas industry are happy with the court decision. “This ruling is a step in the right direction, but we have many more miles to cover,” said Don Briggs, President of LOGA. in a release “Divisive and unnecessary lawsuits, like the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority – East’s and a multitude of other coastal lawsuits, are creating an unstable legal environment for the state and driving new oil and gas investments, jobs, and tax revenue into neighboring states. I applaud the court of appeals’ decision, and we will fight to see that similar coastal lawsuits follow the same course of action.”
Congressman Garrett Graves is also happy with the lawsuit’s outcome. “The appeals court’s decision to dismiss the suit — just like the district court did — was the right decision under the law. This has been nothing more than a distraction to flood protection and coastal restoration efforts. Anyone that takes the time to read the legal contract between the flood board and the trial lawyers will quickly recognize this is one of the worst contracts for taxpayers in Louisiana history. It never should have been approved.” said Graves in a release.
Meanwhile, the other lawsuits are still ongoing.