SELA Flood Protection Authority-East fails to kill lawsuit against 'Big Oil'

Published: Jun. 19, 2014 at 9:22 PM CDT
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A vote is expected on the lawsuit against 'Big Oil.' (WVUE)
A vote is expected on the lawsuit against 'Big Oil.' (WVUE)

The New Orleans-area flood board that filed a lawsuit against 97 oil, gas and pipeline companies last summer has failed to kill the suit.

The board voted 4-4, with one member absent.

Thursday's meeting of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East included a closed-door session to discuss the litigation.

The Bureau of Governmental Research, and the League of Women Voters are all urging the SELA board to move forward with the lawsuit.

Board member Joe Hassinger chastised former board member John Barry for binding the flood authority with a huge legal bill if they vote to withdraw the lawsuit against 97 oil companies. Hassinger says the lawsuit should have been discussed openly.

Retired Army Gen. Russell Honore was among those addressing the meeting. Honore has been a strong supporter of the lawsuit and said it should continue. Attorney Gladstone Jones, a lead attorney on the suit, also was expected to address the board, which convened in Chalmette.

Gov. Bobby Jindal, who opposes the lawsuit, recently signed legislation forbidding the flood board from pursuing it. Supporters of the lawsuit have said that new law will likely be challenged.

Jindal has replaced a number of board members who supported the lawsuit. It is still unclear where the majority stands. The board and the state could already be liable for tens of thousands of dollars, if not millions,  in legal fees.

Jones said attorneys have already worked 14,000 hours on the suit and, either way, that bill must be paid.

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Copyright 2014 WVUE. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.