NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The City of New Orleans is suing several oil and gas companies over coastal erosion.
Mayor Latoya Cantrell on Friday announced the lawsuit, which alleges that pipeline work has caused massive damage to Louisiana's wetlands and "threatened the safety of our people."
Cantrell's statement cites analyses from Tulane, LSU and the Rand Corporation, saying coastal land loss could cost the state more than $133 billion in lost capital.
"New Orleans has been harmed... The land that's been lost was a protective barrier defending us from hurricanes and floods. If the current trend holds, New Orleans will be a literal coastal city within the next fifty years," she said.
The lawsuit, filed in New Orleans Civil District Court, is against Entergy New Orleans, Chevron USA Inc., ExxonMobil Pipeline Company and either other oil and gas companies demanding that they repair damage caused by exploration, production and pipeline construction activities to wetlands along the city's eastern edges.
The suit contends the companies' both failed to follow regulations requiring them to backfill canals, repair lost wetlands and clean up wastes, and in some instances, failed to get the permits required to work in the wetland areas.
New Orleans joins six surrounding parishes which have filed similar lawsuits against the oil and gas industry.
"It is unfortunate to see the City of New Orleans bow to the administration's pressure for more self-serving lawsuit," said Gifford Briggs, president of the Louisiana Oil & Gas Association in a statement released in response to the lawsuit. There is no reason why Louisiana should be outsourcing the protection of its coast to a few lawyers whose only interest is in padding their bank accounts. It is long past time that the litigation is put on the back burner and state government takes back the responsibility it is granted in the Coastal Zone Program."
The Grow Louisiana Coalition, a collection of business-friendly organizations supportive of oil and gas, said the lawsuit ignores the economic impact of the industry in the city.
"Nothing good comes from suing an industry that means so much to New Orleans. Right now, there are more than 1,600 New Orleanians and a couple hundred New Orleans-based businesses working in the energy industry here," said Grow Louisiana's Executive Director Marc Ehrhardt in a statement. "Lawsuits do not build relationships. They end them."
Tyler Gray, president of the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association said the city has sent a message to oil and that "they're closed for business."
"Unnecessary legal tactics threaten the community investment and cultural support the industry has provided for over a century, which they can now potentially lose, as they wat for several years, as other parishes in the state have, for this to work its way through the judicial process," Gray said in a statement.
Both Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and the state Department of Natural Resources have joined as plaintiffs in all the other lawsuits. Two years ago, Gov. John Bel Edwards said he would like all coastal parishes to file similar suits. Edwards said the state's intervention is aimed at assuring that any money stemming from the suits is used for restoration projects that are in keeping with the state's $50 billion, 50-year coastal master plan.
The energy firms named in the suit include Apache Louisiana Minerals LLC, based in Houston; Aspect Energy, LLC, based in Denver, Colorado; Chaparral Energy L.L.C., based in Oklahoma City; Chevron U.S.A. Inc., based in San Ramon, California; Collins Pipeline Company, based in Houston; Entergy New Orleans and its predecessor companies; EOG Resources Inc., based in Houston, which is a successor company to Florida Exploration Company and Coastal Production Company; ExxonMobil Pipeline Company, based in Spring, Texas; Gulf South Pipeline Company, LP, based in Houston; Southern Natural Gas Company, L.L.C., based in Houston; and Whiting Oil and Gas Corporation, based in Denver.