Louisiana Oil Lawsuits
Oil and gas companies are becoming the recipient of Louisiana oil lawsuits from many different parties across the state. The plantiffs are Louisiana parishes, Louisiana individual landowners, environmental groups, and more. The basis for suit is the contamination of land and water, and the violation of existing land protection laws.
Plaquemines and Jefferson Parish
There are over 70 oil and gas companies that operate in Louisiana. In Plaquemines Parish, 66% of tax revenue comes from oil and gas operations, making these companies a huge influence in the area, for better or for worse. Plaquemines Parish is one of the most fragile coastal environments and one that is also subjected to the oil and gas companies’ exploitation of land. Plaquemines Parish recently filed 21 lawsuits against some of these companies, congruent with the number of oil fields that were left in disrepair after oil company operations. Despite attempts from LOGA to end the Louisiana oil lawsuits, the parishes hold the legal authority to file such suits due to the pre-existing mandated coastal regulations and the 1978 law that outlines the responsibilities oil and gas companies have to restore the leased land.
Jefferson Parish filed an additional seven lawsuits, hoping to recover damages done to coastal land in their jurisdiction. If the lawsuits are successful, the oil and gas companies would have to repair the damages done or reimburse the state to fix the damages.
Because the oil and gas companies were historically left to self-report to the state and federal agencies, many environmental laws were broken or overlooked. In some cases, pipes were laid without permission, and wells were drilled without permits. Out of the 70-plus oil companies leasing land in Louisiana, not a single one has ever filed permits saying that the land was restored or in the process of being restored.
Environmental Groups File Suit Against Oil Companies
In 2014, Environmental groups Gulf Restoration Network, Louisiana Environmental Action Network and the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit against United Bulk for contaminating the Mississippi River with toxic petroleum coke and coal runoff. Coal runoff can result in chemicals like lead and arsenic migrating into the Mississippi. The basis for the lawsuit filed was unpermitted chemical discharges for the past five years. This runoff is the obvious violation of the federal Clean Water Act.
Landowners and Legacy Lawsuits
Legacy lawsuits are suits filed by Louisiana landowners who allowed oil and gas companies to lease their property for oil excavation on the terms that they would repair the site afterwards. Residents and landowners who state that the oil companies did not respect written agreements have filed lawsuits. Others have filed Louisiana oil lawsuits in response to groundwater and land contamination. Those opposing the legacy lawsuits say that is it hard to find fault on companies that were complying with the environmental laws at the time, regardless of current damages. Additional opposition comes from fear of job loss and costly litigation with no real state monetary gain.
Despite the several parties mentioned are in agreement about the responsibility of coastal damages, our state is still faces a lengthy process of coastal restoration and recovery. Quizzically, Louisiana’s multi-billion dollar Coastal Master Plan leaves most of the responsibility for restoration upon the state-funded systems, not the oil and gas companies that promised to fix them in their initial lease contracts. It is clear that we have reached the limits of pumping our fragile ecosystem for profit.