Report from Louisiana: More Lawsuits Against Big Oil

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Report from Louisiana: More Lawsuits Against Big Oil

By: Pat Austin

BATON ROUGE – It is not news that the Louisiana coast­line
has been exten­sively dam­aged through the years by energy com­pa­nies who have
left miles of canals and chan­nels dredged through our wet­lands as part of the
process of har­vest­ing the vast oil resources in our state.

It is also not news that Louisiana’s coast­line is quickly
erod­ing and the most com­mon metaphor is that we are los­ing a foot­ball field’s worth
of land an hour, a claim that has been ques­tioned,
explored, clar­i­fied
, and still remains the most com­mon yard­stick for our
situation.

Last year, NOLA and the New York Times did
a stun­ning series on Louisiana’s van­ish­ing coast
explor­ing how this sit­u­a­tion
has affected the way of life for so many peo­ple and the dan­ger our coast­line faces
should another “Kat­rina” come along.

In 2014 the
New York Times pub­lished an arti­cle
about author John Barry’s law­suit to
save the coastline.

And that’s not even the tip of the ice­berg; there
are dozens of law­suits
work­ing their way through the courts that attempt to
hold the oil indus­try respon­si­ble for repair­ing and restor­ing the dam­age done
through decades of irre­spon­si­ble drilling practices.

It’s a quixotic prob­lem, to be sure. The oil and gas
indus­try is the one bas­ket into which we have placed all of our eggs, so to
speak. Our econ­omy depends heav­ily on it and the indus­try pro­vides innu­mer­able jobs,
both directly and indi­rectly, for the cit­i­zens of this state. It’s a Catch-​22.

In the lat­est move, this week the City of New Orleans has joined
six other parishes in the law­suit frenzy
:

“New Orleans has been harmed,” [NOLA Mayor LaToya Cantrell] said. “The peo­ple of our city have been harmed, and our way of life is threat­ened by the dam­age done to our coastal wetlands.”

The suit names a dozen defen­dants includ­ing the city’s elec­tri­cal util­ity, Entergy New Orleans, plus Chevron and Exxon­Mo­bil, and calls on them to pay to restore the wetlands.

“Given the chal­lenges we face when it comes to our infra­struc­ture, the addi­tional strain of these dam­ages demands action. Get­ting our fair share means being made whole by the com­pa­nies who have harmed us,” Cantrell said.

This flurry of law­suits began in 2013 and many blame Gov­er­nor
John Bel Edwards for the esca­la­tion. Edwards is close with the trial lawyers
and while as chil­dren we used to play “count the license plates from other
states” games, now chil­dren count the Gor­don
McK­er­nan
bill­boards along the high­ways. If there is a blank bill­board,
some­one is going to put a sign on it that says “Quick! Rent this bill­board
before Gor­dan does!”

In Jan­u­ary 2018, Busi­ness
Insider wrote about the close ties
between Edwards and the trial lawyers:

Sup­port­ers of energy devel­op­ment are also sus­pi­cious of Edwards’ close ties to Louisiana’s com­mu­nity of trial lawyers, par­tic­u­larly Glad Jones, an attor­ney in New Orleans who lit­i­gates envi­ron­men­tal and com­mer­cial cases. In 2006, Jones won what was then the largest judge­ment against an oil com­pany in Louisiana’s his­tory: $57 mil­lion in dam­ages for pol­lu­tion and marsh­land loss against Exxon­Mo­bil. Jones is also a strong cam­paign sup­porter of Edwards.

We all know how this is going to turn out, right?

This will drag on through the courts for­ever, the lawyers
will all get rich, the oil keeps com­ing, and the coast­line vanishes.

Nobody wins but the lawyers.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreve­port and is the author of Cane River Bohemia. Fol­low her on Insta­gram @patbecker25 and Twit­ter @paustin110.

By:  Pat Austin

BATON ROUGE – It is not news that the Louisiana coastline has been extensively damaged through the years by energy companies who have left miles of canals and channels dredged through our wetlands as part of the process of harvesting the vast oil resources in our state. 

It is also not news that Louisiana’s coastline is quickly eroding and the most common metaphor is that we are losing a football field’s worth of land an hour, a claim that has been questioned, explored, clarified, and still remains the most common yardstick for our situation.

Last year, NOLA and the New York Times did a stunning series on Louisiana’s vanishing coast exploring how this situation has affected the way of life for so many people and the danger our coastline faces should another “Katrina” come along.

In 2014 the New York Times published an article about author John Barry’s lawsuit to save the coastline.

And that’s not even the tip of the iceberg; there are dozens of lawsuits working their way through the courts that attempt to hold the oil industry responsible for repairing and restoring the damage done through decades of irresponsible drilling practices.

It’s a quixotic problem, to be sure. The oil and gas industry is the one basket into which we have placed all of our eggs, so to speak. Our economy depends heavily on it and the industry provides innumerable jobs, both directly and indirectly, for the citizens of this state. It’s a Catch-22.

In the latest move, this week the City of New Orleans has joined six other parishes in the lawsuit frenzy:

“New Orleans has been harmed,” [NOLA Mayor LaToya Cantrell] said. “The people of our city have been harmed, and our way of life is threatened by the damage done to our coastal wetlands.”

The suit names a dozen defendants including the city’s electrical utility, Entergy New Orleans, plus Chevron and ExxonMobil, and calls on them to pay to restore the wetlands.

“Given the challenges we face when it comes to our infrastructure, the additional strain of these damages demands action. Getting our fair share means being made whole by the companies who have harmed us,” Cantrell said.

This flurry of lawsuits began in 2013 and many blame Governor John Bel Edwards for the escalation. Edwards is close with the trial lawyers and while as children we used to play “count the license plates from other states” games, now children count the Gordon McKernan billboards along the highways. If there is a blank billboard, someone is going to put a sign on it that says “Quick! Rent this billboard before Gordan does!”

In January 2018, Business Insider wrote about the close ties between Edwards and the trial lawyers:

Supporters of energy development are also suspicious of Edwards’ close ties to Louisiana’s community of trial lawyers, particularly Glad Jones, an attorney in New Orleans who litigates environmental and commercial cases. In 2006, Jones won what was then the largest judgement against an oil company in Louisiana’s history: $57 million in damages for pollution and marshland loss against ExxonMobil. Jones is also a strong campaign supporter of Edwards.

We all know how this is going to turn out, right?

This will drag on through the courts forever, the lawyers will all get rich, the oil keeps coming, and the coastline vanishes. 

Nobody wins but the lawyers.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.