What We're Reading

A roundup of coverage on historic lawsuit against oil companies for coastal damage

The lawsuit… alleges that the companies violated their permits when they did not “maintain and restore” the wetlands involved, and that their projects violated the federal River and Harbors Act of 1899 by reducing the effectiveness of federal levees.

But the heart of the case rests on a centuries-old legal principle called “servitude of drainage.” That doctrine stipulates that someone is liable for damages if he does something to increase the flow of water on another’s property.

Environmental reporter Bob Marshall’s story includes maps showing oil and gas well expansion in Southeast Louisiana, as well as coastal loss projections. Click the above link to Marshall’s live blog coverage of the news conference regarding the lawsuit. The story has already received widespread coverage in a number of outlets, including:

A successful suit could require corporations, including major oil producers, to pay the cost of restoring Louisiana’s wetlands and potentially bear some of the cost of maintaining the post-Hurricane Katrina flood protection system that the authority oversees.

[Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East Commissioner John] Barry said he’s briefed a number of officials on the suit, including members of the state’s congressional delegation and Garret Graves, head of the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.

“We have not read the lawsuit so cannot speak to the merits of the action,” said Garret Graves, adviser to Gov. Bobby Jindal on coastal issues and chairman of the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, in a statement released late Tuesday.

But the statement didn’t seem to agree with the authority’s strategy to take the oil and gas industry to court.

“The best way to direct oil and gas company revenues into our coast is through revenue sharing from offshore energy production,” Graves said.

If the suit is even moderately successful in the early procedural stages, the list of plaintiffs … could grow substantially. Lead plaintiff’s counsel Glad Jones, who has successfully brought environmental lawsuits against Big Oil and others in the past, told Gambit that the suit has the potential to be bigger than the ongoing BP litigation.

“What remains of these coastal lands is so seriously diseased that if nothing is done, it will slip into the Gulf of Mexico by the end of this century, if not sooner,” the filing stated.

A spokeswoman for BP said that the company would have no comment. A spokesman for Exxon Mobil said the company had no comment at this time.

Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) are not pleased — at all — with Interior Department criticism of their legislation to share federal royalties from offshore oil production with coastal states.

Landrieu, at a Senate hearing Tuesday, invoked the 1,400 killed in her state from 2005’s Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, calling Interior’s position “tragic” and “seemingly heartless.”

[Senator] said they’ve hired 100 full-time employees and 100 part-time employees. “The part-time employees all receive full benefits,” said Senator, a reason she said she’s proud to work for the organization. Senator said Costco is not here to compete with small business, but rather to serve them.”

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About Mark Moseley

Mark Moseley blogs at Your Right Hand Thief. Until mid 2014, Mark Moseley was The Lens' opinion writer, engagement specialist and coordinator for the Charter Schools Reporting Corps. After Katrina and the Federal Flood he helped create the Rising Tide conference, which grew into an annual social media event dedicated to the future of New Orleans.