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Louisiana lawmakers split on levee board lawsuit

Last year, the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East filed a lawsuit against almost 100 oil and gas companies. The lawsuit alleges that the building of canals and pipelines have caused enormous damage and injury to the Louisiana wetlands. In fact, the state has lost land equal to the size of Delaware.

On March 10, the new legislative session began. Lawmakers are split over the lawsuit. One bill supported by Sen. Norby Chabert seeks to keep the SLFPA-E from retaining outside council in the case and limiting the agreement for contingency fees that is currently in place. Sen. Chabert said, "The lawsuit was a very simpleminded way of attacking a very complex problem." One part of this bill that is not popular with some legislators is the fact that it would be retroactively applied. Sen. Joe Harrison said that he doesn't believe that portion of the bill is legal; however, he also said that he is ready to hear proponents' and opponents' views on the bill.

Another bill wants to quash this lawsuit by requiring arbitration and that the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources hear such disputes. Yet another bill would not allow state and local authorities to pursue damages.

The former vice-president of the SLFPA-E board, John Barry, was recently in Houma, Louisiana, showing how the oil and gas companies have destroyed and damaged areas of the wetlands and marshes because of their permit neglect. Two parishes have also filed lawsuits against specific oil and gas companies for "wetland damage and neglect of coastal permits."

While it is not known if the legislation to derail the SLFPA-E's lawsuit will come to fruition, those who have environmental concerns often find that relief only comes through the civil court system. An experienced Louisiana environmental attorney can help when it comes to navigating the state's legal system.

Source: dailycomet.com, "Suit challenges oil companies' role in wetlands loss" Xerxes Wilson, Mar. 08, 2014

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