Politics prominent in flood authority lawsuit
Has the president of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Authority-East’s board changed his stance on the lawsuit filed against almost 100 oil and gas companies? That is the assertion of several proponents of the lawsuit, which alleges that the damage and injury to Louisiana’s coastal areas was caused by decades of dredging and canal and pipeline building. The suit seeks to have the oil and gas companies pay for restoring the coastal areas, as well as the costs associated with protecting New Orleans from hurricane storm surges.
The board’s president, Tim Doody, didn’t allow the SLFPA-E board’s attorney into a recent executive session that was called in order to discuss the lawsuit. According to some, this is a sign that the board’s president doesn’t support the suit any longer.
In the executive session, one of the new board members appointed by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal was planning to ask the board to approve a 90-day suspension of the lawsuit. Joe Hassinger, a New Orleans attorney, was appointed along with two others to replace board members whose terms were up. Governor Jindal is a staunch opponent of the lawsuit and has said he will seek legislative approval to have the suit stopped.
The motion to suspend the lawsuit was deferred, though. This was because there is now an open state Ethics Board inquiry into whether Hassinger’s presence on the board is a conflict of interest. The law firm in which he is a partner represents many oil and gas companies; however, none of those companies are named in the lawsuit.
Hassinger’s negative feelings about the lawsuit were evident in his continued questioning of how many hours have been billed to the board by attorneys. The answer to that question was “zero” because there is a contingency fee in place. In other words, the attorneys only get paid if the suit settles, the state legislators stop the suit or the board decides to drop the suit.
There are many environmental concerns in Louisiana and without action, most will not be addressed in a way that will make a real difference. While civil action may not be a first choice for many, it could be the final attempt when other attempts for corrective action fail.
bestofneworleans.com, “‘Neck-deep in politics’” Clancy DuBos, Nov. 25, 2013