New effort to kill oil company lawsuit over wetlands - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

New effort to kill oil company lawsuit over wetlands


The end could come soon for a lawsuit against 97 oil companies to help restore the coast.

Even though a bill to kill the suit is now law, the courts haven't acted. A member of the board that brought the suit is now trying a new approach.

For the first time since being formed, the finance committee of the Southeast Louisiana flood authority met Thursday without former board president Tim Doody.

Doody, who guided the new authority for eight years, was dismissed last week after Governor Jindal signed Senate Bill 469, which moved to retroactively kill the authority's lawsuit.

"I got a call from a high level official in Baton Rouge," Doody told FOX 8.

The suit may be killed next week. Flood authority board member Joe Hassinger says he is now drawing up a resolution to have the suit withdrawn, saying the board exceeded it's authority.

"We have to have an open debate and discussion among the board members [and] among all the people that are interested and we will reach a decision," said acting president of the Southeast La. Flood Authority-East, Steve Estopinal.

Board member Hassinger tells FOX 8 there should have been more discussion on the lawsuit before it was filed. He says that in approving it, the board violated it's own policies.

Hassinger said the suit should have been bid out and publicly discussed, but the former board president scoffed at the idea.

"To think you will bid out a case in which you were going to file a lawsuit and basically show your hand to the other side is almost crazy," said Doody.

Now, Doody questions whether the board has enough votes yet to kill the suit.

Tyrone Ben, the anti-suit member appointed to fill Doody's vacancy is not on board yet. There also may be an effort to remove other lawsuit supporters from the board.

"I also think the citizens of the state, have a stake here," said Doody.

Doody says if the suit is pulled, Louisiana taxpayers may have to cough up hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses incurred by Gladstone Jones, the attorney who brought the suit, in an effort to earn millions of dollars for coastal restoration.

"There's a portion of the contract that says if someone pulls the suit, my efforts should be compensated," said Doody, referring to money potentially owed to plaintiff attorney Gladstone Jones.

While Doody waits to see if any other state entity picks up the suit, he moves into a new chapter.

"I'm going to go back and do what I did before I got on the board and I have found the pay is exactly the same," he said. And the pressures, a lot less.

Doody says the state attorney general approved of the flood authority lawsuit and the attorney before it was filed. He says the issue is so complex and there's so much money at stake that the legal fight to have the suit pulled may take years.

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