Environment
 

First of two important court dates coming on wetlands lawsuit against oil and gas

The first of two key court dates over the next four weeks comes up Wednesday* in the historic lawsuit against energy companies for damage to coastal wetlands.

But attorneys don’t expect rulings until sometime next year.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Nannette Jolivette Brown will hear arguments in New Orleans on industry motions to dismiss the suit filed by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East. Among the claims: A law passed by the Legislature removed the panel’s authority to file the suit, and federal and state laws require the issue to be decided by the agencies that regulate the industry.

Then on Dec. 10, Brown will hear a motion by the flood protection authority that the new state law doesn’t apply and is unconstitutional. Earlier this month a state judge gave the authority a victory on both counts.

Representatives for both sides said Brown’s crowded docket likely means rulings will not come for several months. Brown took six months to deny the flood authority’s December request to have the case moved to state court.

And despite a settlement reached last week with two of the smaller companies involved in the case, observers expect the months ahead to be taken up with more procedural filings.

“The wheels of justice in this case will be moving for quite some time yet,” said Greg Beuerman, spokesman for three of the oil companies in the suit.

*Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said the hearing was Tuesday.

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