A federal judge on Friday (Feb. 13) dismissed a controversial wetlands damage lawsuit filed by the east bank levee authority against more than 80 oil, gas and pipeline companies, ruling that the authority failed to make a valid claim against the energy firms.As we all know by now, healthy wetlands are an indispensable element of the natural and man-made systems that protect the inhabited parts of South Louisiana from storm surge during hurricanes. One assumes the Flood Protection Authority would have some interest in making claims against damage to that system.
The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East contended that dredging of navigation canals and other actions by the companies caused wetland damage that reduced or would reduce the effectiveness of the recently-rebuilt levee system protecting most of metro New Orleans.
The suit attempted to get the energy companies to either repair the damage or pay damages to the authority, with the money used to improve the levee system.
But U.S. District Court Judge Nannette Jolivette Brown found that the levee authority's standing as a third party to federal and state permits granted to the energy companies was not strong enough to justify a financial claim against the companies.
So why do they not have "standing" to sue in this case? Watch this.
Brown also disagreed with the levee authority's attempt to find the energy companies liable under provisions of Louisiana law governing the flow of water over property, which is called "natural servitude of drain". The levee authority contended that the energy companies were responsible for storm surge posing an increased threat to the levees because of the erosion the companies caused.Because levees are on higher ground the levee board has no jurisdiction where it concerns the marshland that actually makes those levees effective. Weren't we supposed to have evolved beyond this sort of self-defeating thinking post-K?
But the state law is written to protect downstream landowners from problems caused by upstream users, and the levees are on higher ground. Brown said several cases cited by the authority did not adequately support their position turning that provision of the law around.
And if the levee board doesn't have standing to sue over damage to the levee system who does? The State of Louisiana itself might. But that's not likely to happen. Not under the current administration.
The ruling also was praised by the administration of Gov. Bobby Jindal, who opposed the suit.And not likely under the next one either.
"We appreciate the judge's ruling and are pleased that this frivolous lawsuit has come to an end," said Shannon Bates, deputy communications director for the governor. "We've maintained that this was not a claim SLPFA had the authority to bring, and we are glad the court agreed."