Levee panel wants oil suit back in state court

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The New Orleans-based flood control board that sued dozens of oil and gas companies over the erosion of coastal wetlands is trying to get that lawsuit put back in state court.

The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East's board of commissioners filed the suit in state civil district court in New Orleans on July 24.

Last month, it was transferred to federal court at the request of Chevron U.S.A., one of the defendants. The company argued that federal laws govern many of the suit's claims. This week, the flood authority moved to have the case put back in the New Orleans-based state court, saying it doesn't raise substantial issues of federal law.

An Oct. 2 hearing has been set on the issue before U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt. The suit alleges that the oil and gas industry has cost Louisiana hundreds of thousands acres of coastal land that serve as a natural buffer against flooding from hurricanes. Corrosive saltwater from a network of oil and gas access and pipeline canals has killed vegetation and swept away vast amounts of soil, the suit claims.

Industry leaders and Gov. Bobby Jindal were highly critical of the lawsuit. As the legal battle continues, a committee representing good government groups, engineering societies and academics is preparing to meet in New Orleans to discuss filling vacancies on the SLFPA-E board.

The committee that meets Friday will discuss the process to be used this fall in nominating candidates for three expired terms on the nine-member board. Jindal will choose from among the committee's nominees.

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