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Law Blocking "Big Oil" Lawsuit Challenged by Louisiana Flood Authority

In July of 2013, the Southeast Louisiana Flood Authority (SLFA) filed a lawsuit in in Louisiana state court against 97 oil and gas companies. They lawsuit alleged that the defendants had damaged hundreds of thousands of acres of land along the Louisiana coast over the course of decades of drilling for oil and natural gas. The lawsuit sought damages for the damage done to the coastal marshes and demanded that the defendants repair the land, which act as Louisiana's first line of defense against hurricanes and tropical storms.

The lawsuit was met with immediate opposition from the oil and gas industry, including Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. Jindal threatened to replace the Board's members who had voted to file the lawsuit and later in 2013, he did just that. Jindal replaced four of the board members at the end of their term.

The lawsuit met increased opposition in March of 2014 when the Louisiana legislative session began. Ultimately, Senate Bill 469 was passed and signed into law. The bill prohibits (even retroactively) state governmental agencies such as the Southeast Louisiana Flood Authority from filing law suits to enforce environmental protection laws. The new bill effectively killed the lawsuit filed by the SLFA.

The SFLA is now fighting the new state law, arguing that it cannot be used to block their lawsuit because regional flood authorities such as the SFLA do not fall under the constitutional or statutory definitions of local government agencies.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court on August 5th, the SFLA also argues that Senate Bill 469 violates constitutional prohibition against "special laws" concerning civil or criminal actions and that it denies the SFLA its constitutional right to seek remedies for coastal damage.

A federal judge has scheduled a November 12th hearing on the SFLA's motion. The decision could have drastic effects on certain agencies' ability to bring suit against oil and gas companies for any future environmental damages caused by drilling.

Categories: Louisiana Lawsuits
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