Times-Picayune, New Orleans, Louisiana, on flood protection lawsuit derailing
Times-Picayune, New Orleans, Louisiana, on flood protection lawsuit derailing:
Gov. Bobby Jindal set out this spring to derail the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East lawsuit against 97 oil and gas companies for their role in the erosion of the state’s coastline. It wasn’t as easy as he might have hoped, but he may have done it. The final version of Senate Bill 469 gives the companies explicit permission to get out of the lawsuit. The question is how fast they will race to court to file those motions — and whether a judge will agree to dismiss the case.
That shouldn’t be allowed to happen, though. The bill should be vetoed, especially given the new analysis released Saturday by legal scholars who argue the legislation could undermine ongoing lawsuits against BP in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and any future such accidents. That prospect ought to make even Gov. Jindal rethink SB 469.
If he doesn’t, Attorney General Buddy Caldwell should look for a way to salvage the authority’s lawsuit and minimize the damage of SB 469. Mr. Caldwell is the people’s lawyer and should look out for their well-being. Having the Legislature pre-empt an ongoing lawsuit and summarily let an industry off the hook for decades of damage to our coast is not in the best interest of the people of Louisiana.
SB 469 prohibits not only the two Southeast Louisiana flood protection authorities, but parish governments and other agencies from suing for negligence, strict liability or other causes of action for damage to levees or coastal lands, according to an analysis by the Bureau of Governmental Research.
Nor could they sue for increased cost of operation and maintenance of flood control structures or construction costs because of coastal erosion caused by the industry.
If the lawsuit were dismissed “with prejudice,” it couldn’t be filed again.
The legislation could “very well permanently deprive the residents of greater New Orleans and the rest of coastal Louisiana of significant claims against the oil and gas industry and others,” BGR said last week.
The lawsuit ought to be allowed to unfold in the court system. A judge can decide whether it has merit. That is not the Legislature’s job. Nor is it the governor’s.