Jim Brown’s Weekly Column: Will Big Oil Finally Pay the Piper in Louisiana

Thursday, August 1st, 2013
New Orleans, Louisiana


A lawsuit against Big Oil for environmental damage by the Bayou State? Are you kidding me? Who could possibly have thunk it? Why it’s almost blasphemous to challenge the oil industry in a state where oil revenue has been the mother’s milk for both campaign contributions and government spending for longer than anyone cares to remember. Oh, sure, oil companies big and small have rarely received as much as a slap on the wrist for the extensive environmental damage that has been a significant factor in Louisiana losing almost 2000 square miles of coastal land since the 1930s. But now, it may be time to pay the piper for all those years of neglect.

Certainly, one cannot blame the massive land loss and environmental damage solely on the oil industry. But over the past 70 years, by cutting through thousands of miles of Louisiana wetlands to reach valuable oil drilling locations, and then by digging pipeline canals, vast wetlands destruction took place. In Louisiana, officials in charge of protecting these invaluable coastal wetlands have, in most cases, let the private sector off the hook and turned to government funding, both state and federal, in a weak attempt to reverse the damage. The state’s slogan cold well be, “quick to complain, but reluctant to aim at those who are responsible.”

But that attitude changed a bit in the past few days. Under Louisiana law, the governor appoints a number of levee boards that are charged with the responsibility of protecting landowners from flooding up and down the Mississippi River, as well as throughout the wetlands. And being appointed by the governor, they generally adhere to his biding. A south Louisiana levee board, which is charged with protecting areas surrounding greater New Orleans, took the bold step of filing a multi-$billion lawsuit against 97 oil companies, operating throughout the state including BP, Mobile, and Exxon. Continue Reading…………

3 thoughts on “Jim Brown’s Weekly Column: Will Big Oil Finally Pay the Piper in Louisiana”

  1. Brown, one really has to disagree with you on this issue. You merely have a scenario where one gang of crooks is getting a shake down to enable another gang of crooks. Truly, denial is repeating the same sorry scenario over and over. Do you really expect a political nomenklatura which got its “take” all these years and willfully violated its public duties to now properly spend the loot on neglected public duties? No, this is just another way to fund our local “friends and family” plans.

    1. The lawsuit doesn’t even address depriving the delta of annual replenishment due levees. It also does not address saltwater intrusion due Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. Lastly, it does not address the removal, via dredging of clamshell reefs right at the coasts which were material of choice, pre & post WWII for roads and to feed lime kilns to make cement.

      1. Citizen, we’ll see the true colours of this suit in short fashion. First, what defenses the civil perps file. Essentially affirmative defenses as failure to mitigate – that ought to be rich given the plaintiffs will have to show how they did something while doing nothing – and frankly there’s some prescriptive problems notwithstanding the continuing tort issue given notice and whatnot.

        And, certainly there will be some federal preclusion issues. And if one is innovative, the defendants are entitled to a good no right of action as this would appear a claim more properly brought by the AG, and who knows, the state’s creation of coastal zone management years ago may have preclusive effect. And, although the statutes creating the superboards certainly (?) had language continuing the accrued & vested causes of action available to the old pre-merger levee boards, even that would be in for a time line.

        The final kicker – those older contracts may not have had the repair & reclamation language, and certainly if there are long lapsed leases of any kind, then waiting X years to “do something” is in question. This is not a contra non valentum agrere non currit praescriptio or involves allegations of fraud.

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