Louisiana Flood District Sues Largest Oil and Gas Companies for Destroying Coastal Areas

Sunday, July 28, 2013
Louisiana coastline 1839-1993

Nearly 100 companies, including the nation’s largest oil and gas operations, are being sued by a Louisiana flood protection district over the erosion of the state’s coastal zone.


The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority – East (SLFPA-E) contends that the defendants’ fossil fuel extraction has caused enormous damage to Louisiana’s coastal lands, and should be forced to pay for its repair.


“Oil and gas activities continue to transform what was once a stable ecosystem of naturally occurring bayous, small canals, and ditches into an extensive – and expanding – network of large and deep canals that continues to widen due to Defendants’ ongoing failure to maintain this network or restore the ecosystem to its natural state,” the SLFPA-E said in its complaint.


“That canal network continues to introduce increasingly larger volumes of damaging saltwater, at increasingly greater velocity, ever deeper into Louisiana’s coastal landscape and interior wetlands. The increasing intrusion of saltwater stresses the vegetation that holds wetlands together, weakening – and ultimately killing – that vegetation. Thus weakened, the remaining soil is washed away even by minor storms. The canal network thus comprises a highly effective system of coastal landscape degradation. The product of this network is an ecosystem so seriously diseased that its complete demise is inevitable if no action is taken,” the agency added.


Created by the Louisiana legislature in 2006 following Hurricane Katrina, the SLFPA-E is charged with ensuring that the regional flood risk management system works effectively.


The agency cited data from the U.S. Geological Survey claiming oil and gas activities were among the primary causes of coastal land erosion. It also said that since 1932, Louisiana has lost more than 1,900 square miles of its coastline, enough to cover the state of Delaware, and may lose another 700 square miles in the coming decades.


John M. Barry, vice-president of SLFPA-E, noted that, “The industry has taken about $470 billion of the state’s natural resources during the past 20 years, and we ask that it pick up its share of the increased costs of flood protections required to offset the loss of protective coastal wetlands. The industry recognizes that it is responsible for a significant part of the problem. We want energy companies to fix the part of the problem they caused – and which they promised to address. We want them to do what they said they’d do.”


Republican Governor Bobby Jindal objected to the lawsuit, claiming the SLFPA-E had “overstepped its authority.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Oil, Gas and Pipeline Companies Sued for Louisiana Coastal Land Loss and Flood Risk, According to SLFPA-E (Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority – East) (pdf)

Louisiana Agency Sues Dozens of Energy Companies for Damage to Wetlands (by John Schwartz, New York Times)

Massive Damages Demanded From Big Oil (by Sabrina Canfield, Courthouse News Service)

Another Drilling Blowout in the Gulf, another Explosion (by John Upton, Grist)

SLFPA-E vs. 99 Oil and Gas Companies (Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans) (pdf)


Leave a comment