Mayhall Fondren Blaize

Important case weighs in on coastal oil and gas law issues

Many Louisiana readers are aware that the state's first coastal lawsuit was filed in 2013 and has made its way through the appellate process. That oil and gas lawsuit was dismissed at the lower level. In a recent ruling, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld the lower court's decision.

The suit was brought by the Board of Commissioners of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority against approximately 100 oil and gas companies. The lawsuit asked that those companies be held liable for billions of dollars for their participation in activities believed to have damaged the Louisiana coastline. A great deal of controversy surrounds the matter, with strong opinions held by both sides.

However, both the lower and upper courts found that there is nothing in federal or state law that permits a levee board to bring a case against so many defendants. For those in the oil and gas industry, the ruling comes as a relief. Multiple "copycat" lawsuits were filed in the wake of the original suit. Now that the higher court has affirmed the dismissal, those lawsuits are not likely to succeed.

Many environmentalists believe that the corporations that profit from oil and gas should be held accountable for the destruction of the Louisiana coastline. Those opposed to these types of oil and gas law cases, however, argue that attempts to sue multiple companies in such an overarching manner does nothing good for the state. In making that argument, opponents are quick to point to the expense that taxpayers must shoulder for such cases to move through the judicial process. However, environmentalists assert that no cost is too high when it comes to protecting the delicate balance of coastal ecosystems.  

Source: theadvocate.com, "Guest column: Court sends clear message: lawsuits won't save coast", Sharon Hewitt, March 24, 2017

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