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Money from small settlement earmarked for coast

Last Modified: Thursday, November 20, 2014 5:49 PM

By The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS — Money from the first and only settlement so far in a Louisiana flood board's lawsuit against dozens of energy companies will be placed in a special account dedicated to coastal restoration.

The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East voted Thursday to establish the dedicated account for any funds received as a result of the controversial lawsuit it filed in 2013 against dozens of oil, gas and pipeline companies. The suit blames drilling activity and canal dredging done by the companies for the degradation of wetlands that protect New Orleans from hurricanes.

Major energy companies are fighting the lawsuit, but two small companies recently agreed to a settlement with the flood authority last month. The settlement is estimated at $50,000. Much larger amounts — estimates range from hundreds of millions to billions of dollars — are at stake in a suit that could last for years, although oil and gas industry supporters, including Gov. Bobby Jindal, are trying to kill the suit.

Jindal says it is a needless attack on a vital Louisiana industry. There was unanimous support on the nine-member flood protection board for filing the suit, but Jindal has succeeded in replacing four of the supporters with members who, so far, have backed efforts to rescind it. Lawmakers voted for legislation to kill the suit retroactively this year, but that law is being challenged in state and federal court.

Backers of the suit say the state has done too little to hold energy companies accountable for decades of coastal damage.

Lawyers handling the lawsuit for the board stand to be compensated with about 22 percent to 32 percent of the damages if they win or successfully settle the case. Under the contingency contract they would get nothing if they lose, but would be due payment for the work they have done if the suit were to be withdrawn.

Flood protection board president Stephen Estopinal said the attorneys elected not to take any compensation from the recent $50,000 settlement.

Posted By: Harold On: 11/23/2014

Title: Needless attack?

Jim dal does not care that energy companies pillaged the wetlands and made out like bandits.
They need to be helps responsible.
We should find coastal and environmental restoration via a processing and extraction fee of minimal amount.

Posted By: Jay Daigle On: 11/21/2014

Title: Re: Money from small settlement earmarked for coast

The Governor has managed to cloud the real reason for the suit - Louisiana doesn't have a way to adequately fund its coastal restoration program at this point. The flood authority lawsuit only seeks damages that the companies in question are legally liable for, as a source of funding for its work, because the state won't do so. Even now, the Governor has not tried to bring the companies to the table for a settlement agreement outside of court, though he could do so, even though the coastal program has funding shortfalls looming just a year or two out. Without funding, coastal restoration is an empty p.r. exercise.

Posted By: John Smith On: 11/21/2014

Title: Corrupt Lawsuit

The terms of this lawsuit, which negotiated in a secret executive session, and never discussed in a public meeting of the board, put taxpayers on the hook for all attorney's fees irrespective of the case ever going to court. Costs under this "poison pill" provision now exceed $2 million. The suit is opposed by the Louisiana Coastal Restoration and Protection Authority and every other levee board in the state. The settlement by these two companies is a business decision to cut the inevitable losses that they were facing in legal fees. They did not agree with the claims of the suit in any way. These claims are completely without merit. This suit was conceived and is being executed as an opportunistic money grab under the laws of the Coastal Zone which were not affected by recent legislation that reigned in the proliferation of baseless "legacy lawsuits" across the state. An examination of the more than 350 of these cookie cutter type suits found that more than half of them had no merit. Of the remainder that did go through to trial only 12 have resulted in the intended goal of the suit being accomplished. I have to use a fake screen name because these attorneys have proven to be vicious in attacking anyone that opposes them.

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