Louisiana state agency files suit against Army Corps of Engineers

For months, the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Agency-East has pursued a lawsuit against 97 oil and gas companies, seeking both compensation and assistance in repairing the damage and injury to coastal areas caused by the dredging of canals and the building of pipelines. On Dec. 3, the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority gave its blessing to a pair of lawsuits against the Army Corps of Engineers. Those suits seek $3 billion in order to repair damage and injury to the Mississippi-River Gulf Outlet. In addition, the lawsuits want the Army Corp of Engineers to pay for the maintenance and operation of hurricane levees located on the West Bank along the Algiers Canal.

The CPRA’s lawsuits, though, according to the state coastal advisor Garret Graves is different from the one filed by the SLFPA-E. Graves said that these lawsuits only apply to a specific area of damage to the state’s coastal areas and is not directed at the oil and gas industry. Governor Bobby Jindal and his administration – which includes the CPRA and Graves – has vehemently opposed the SLFPA-E lawsuit. In fact, Jindal went so far as to replace three members of the SLFPA-E’s board in an attempt to have enough votes to have the lawsuit dropped. That didn’t happen.

Graves said that the SLFPA-E’s suit will harm the coast restoration strategy in the state of Louisiana, which currently includes the suits against the Army Corps of Engineers. The issue with the latest two lawsuits, according to the CPRA, is that the corps is supposed to pay for any damage to the coastal area and for the restoration efforts. This, the CPRA says, is mandated by federal legislation. However, the corps says that a water resources bill from 1986 requires that the costs for such projects be shared, with the state paying 35 percent and the federal governing covering the remainder.

John Barry, the former vice-president of the SLFPA-E’s board, said that intent of the lawsuit was to force the oil and gas companies to comply with lease clauses and state laws that require the restoration of the coastal areas damaged due to the energy companies’ actions.

Hopefully, these lawsuits will lead to the damaged wetlands being restored. When action is not possible through traditional means, sometimes the only way to get the needed environmental changes is through a civil court.

Source: 
louisianarecord.com, “Louisiana to sue Corps of Engineers seeking cash to fix MR-GO damage, maintain some West Bank levees” Mark Schleifstein, Dec. 03, 2013

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