Louisiana lawmakers kill levee board suit

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wwltv.com

Posted on May 30, 2014 at 6:11 PM

Updated Friday, May 30 at 8:51 PM

Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
Email: pmurphy@wwltv.com | Twitter: @pmurphywwl

The state senate voted 25 to 11 to retroactively void a lawsuit filed by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East.

The New Orleans levee board wanted to hold nearly 100 oil and gas companies accountable for years of damage to coastal wetlands.

SLFPA-E Chairman Tim Doody says ultimately the courts will decide whether lawmakers have the authority to kill the litigation.

"Our board did what we were charged to do," said Doody. "I felt like our board feels like we have the right to do what we did. The legislature has the right to do what they're going to do. Theoretically, courts will decide the issue."

The bill by Senator Bret Allain, R-Franklin, defines which government entities can bring legal claims dealing with coastal zone management.

The levee board is not on that list.

Gov. Bobby Jindal's point man for coastal restoration Jerome Zeringue is against the lawsuit, buy says there is no disputing impacts associated with oil and gas activity.

"We had and intend to address those issues with the oil and gas industry," said Zeringue. "But, the levee district in their approach to how they're addressing it was inappropriate."

Board Attorney Gladstone Jones released a statement saying: "Money and special interests won the day. Oil may think it has bought itself immunity at the legislature, but we believe the courts will have the last say. The oil industry started this session with a stable of bills aimed at the SLFPA-E lawsuit, and only one squeaked through. We will assess where we are, consult with our client, and make some decisions. We do thank all those elected officials who had the courage to stand up to the alliance between Big Oil and Governor Jindal."

"The state still has the ability to go after the same group of people for damaging and I guess it would be my hope that the state would pursue those same interests," said Doody.

"We want to make sure that we recognize what the responsibility is, but do it in a prudent manner to bring the oil companies to the table," said Zeringue.

The legislation does not effect lawsuits filed on behalf of Jefferson and St. Bernard parishes.

"My focus has been as president of the parishes Against Coastal Erosion, with my fellow parish presidents, on maintaining the law in effect as it relates to parish government and it does," said JP President John Young.

Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser says he did not agree on his parish council's decision to file suit against the oil and gas industry.

"I'm always against suing first," said Nungesser. "I like to sit down and work things out. We're getting ready to rebuild Pelican Island thanks to Apache and Shell Oil, putting up money."

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