On Friday, March 29, 2019, the City of New Orleans filed a lawsuit in Civil District Court against eleven oil and gas companies seeking damages for alleged harm to Louisiana’s coastal wetlands. Introducing its lawsuit with statements that “New Orleans is imperiled” and its “people are in danger,” the City contends that the defendants’ failure to maintain access canals, spoil banks, and earthen pits created in the course of exploration and production has destroyed the coastal zone. The City’s allegations mirror those levied in recent years by the parishes of Plaquemines, Jefferson, and St. Bernard, among others: that the defendants’ activities constitute coastal “uses” under the Louisiana State and Local Coastal Resources Management Act (“SLCRMA”) and that they violate coastal use permits issued pursuant to that statute. The City has requested a trial by jury, from which it seeks damages, “restoration costs,” restoration of “disturbed areas,” sanctions, costs, attorneys’ fees, and/or declaratory and injunctive relief.
On the heels of Friday’s filing, the Louisiana Oil & Gas Association and the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association issued statements decrying the lawsuit as sending a message to the oil and gas industry that the City is closed for business. Gifford Briggs, LOGA President, commented, “There is no reason why Louisiana should be outsourcing the protection of its coast to a few lawyers whose only interest is in padding their bank accounts. It is long past time that the litigation is put on the back burner and state government take back the responsibility it is granted in the Coastal Zone Program.” LMOGA President Tyler Gray added, “Unnecessary legal tactics threaten the community investment and cultural support the industry has provided for over a century, which they can now potentially lose, as they wait for several years, as other parishes in the state have, for this to work its way through the judicial process. LMOGA vehemently disagrees with the decision to outsource responsibility for enforcing state and local permitting laws to private lawyers.”
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