Lawsuit Dismissed: Oil Companies Not Liable for Louisiana’s Coastal Damage

Are oil and gas companies responsible for coastal damage in Louisiana? Well according to a recent ruling, not in the least. In fact, they stand to get away with billions of dollars worth of damages.

It happened last week when federal judge Nanette Jolivette Brown dismissed a case that would have held nearly 100 oil and gas companies accountable for coastal erosion in Louisiana. The suit was filed by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority – East (SLFPA-E).

The case was brought against these companies in June of 2013 and made its way slowly from state to federal court. The SLFPA-E says that a combination of drilling, pipelines, canals and oil wells in the area has resulted in a loss of nearly 1,900 square miles of coastline, and destroyed important ‘buffer zones’ that would help buffet inland communities against hurricane surges.

The destruction of Louisiana’s coast has also been noted by the USGS, who state that 75 square kilometers of land is being destroyed annually, and if this rate continues, “Louisiana will have lost this crucial habitat in about 200 years”. Although the USGS blames the loss on a variety of issues, including recreational boat traffic and natural shifts in water drainage, they do note that the extensive system of canals and flood-control structures created by oil companies has facilitated this erosion.

The Judge’s ruling was based on a number of aspects of Louisiana and Federal law, which did not ‘permit’ for the oil companies to be held accountable for their actions. It is a complex case based on six different statutes, but those who are well versed in legalese can read the entirety of the 49 page long judgment here.

Right now, activists are saying that coastal restoration projects will cost around $50 billion dollars, a sum that it seems will now fall on the burden of taxpayers alone. However the Governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, doesn’t seem to believe this is a pertinent issue. This dismissal is perhaps linked to the fact that Jindal received over $1 million dollars in campaign contributions from oil and gas companies. In fact, Jindal put in considerable effort to nullify this lawsuit, even signing legislation that would have put an end to any claim the SLFPA-E had on damages. However a Louisiana judge ultimately found that legislation unconstitutional and overturned it.

A spokesperson for Shell, BP and Chevron put out a statement regarding the dismissal, saying, “We are gratified by this court’s ruling to dismiss this ill-conceived, unwise and divisive litigation, which we have contended all along was nothing more than an attempt to subvert the existing legal and regulatory processes.”

Jindal’s spokesperson put out a similar statement, calling the lawsuit “frivolous” and applauding its dismissal.

The President of the SLFPA-E, Stephen Estopinal, discussed appealing the lawsuit on February 19th saying, “I believe strongly that we should appeal. I talked to council and they presented what they believe is an appealable position, that the appeal is worth the effort to do. Therefore a wise man never contradicts his own attorney. So I think appeal is appropriate.”

The attorney, Gladstone Jones, was also quoted as saying that the judge had, “factually and legally” got it wrong, and he voiced little doubt that the 5th Circuit judge would reverse the decision.

Photo credit: Louisiana GOHSEP.

147 comments

Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

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Dianne D.
Dianne D2 years ago

this is so wrong

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Joseph Glackin
Joseph Glackin3 years ago

Maybe we should present them a bill based on the claim "corporations are people. my friend."

As people, they owe as much as the rest of us.

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Jennifer H.
Jennifer H3 years ago

The Judge’s ruling was based on a number of aspects of Louisiana and Federal law, which did not ‘permit’ for the oil companies to be held accountable for their actions.

Wow. This just gave the oil companies the hall pass to really screw up our oceans and land and say "it's not my problem". I don't trust Jindal and this decision was probably a result of a little whispering. He has never cared about the environment; even in his own state. Really sad. But the people there wanted him in office and now they are paying for it....literally.

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M.N. J.
M.N. J3 years ago

Same as it ever was
Same as it ever was
Same as it ever was...

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Sylvie Bermannova

Of course they do not feel responsible, they are unscrupulous! But that does not mean that they should not be held accountable for environmental destructionn they have caused! This final ruling feels wrong and must be changed.

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Beth Wilkerson
Beth Wilkerson3 years ago

This just demonstrates again that big business and politicians are colluding.

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BMutiny TCorporationsEvil

We don't have to be Passive, take this lying down.
We can UNITE around the Global Warming Crisis - all over the World!
UNITE around LEAVING FOSSIL FUELS IN THE GROUND.

First, DIVEST from Fossil Fuels - see that any Organization whatsoever, that you are connected with, DIVESTS FROM FOSSIL FUELS IMMEDIATELY. Your Church, Bank, Union, College or University, your Parents, your City Government - ANY organization you are connected with.

Second, SUPPORT INDIGENOUS PEOPLE, and Farmers and Ranchers and others, that are NON-VIOLENTLY RESISTING their lands being taken away by Fossil Fuel Corporations, pipelines, etc. Support with your VOICES, SPEAK OUT LOUDLY!
The time may be coming, when ALL THE REST OF US may want to put our Bodies on the line, too...

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Hent catalina - maria

Thank you

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