Tuesday, May 28, 2024

U.S. Appeals Court sends Louisiana coastal erosion cases back to state courts

by BIZ Magazine

By Steve Wilson | The Center Square

A three-judge panel at the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans said this week that coastal erosion lawsuits filed by Louisiana coastal parishes against oil companies need to be decided in state, not federal courts.

The order in the case, Parish of Plaquemines v. Chevron USA, will open the door for 41 other lawsuits to be argued in state courts as well and upheld a January decision by late U.S. Judge Martin Feldman in New Orleans. The decision will send the case to the 25th District Court in Plaquemines Parish in southeastern Louisiana.

The lawsuits allege that oil and gas exploration and production activity, such as cutting canals through marshes, have resulted in the loss of coastal habitat due to saltwater intrusion and later erosion.

The case was brought under Louisiana’s State and Local Coastal Resources Management Act, which required parties seeking to use coastal areas for resource extraction to receive permits and apply with protection standards. The act also said that coastal uses that were legally commenced or established prior to 1980, when the act went into effect, were grandfathered unless they were not lawfully commenced or established and if there were departures from prudent business practices. In its original complaint, the parish said the oil companies weren’t grandfathered under the Management Act because their actions satisfied both of the previous two conditions. 

Feldman said in his decision that the oil companies’ contention that the case needed to be heard in federal court since they said they were under orders by federal officers during World War II was not valid. 

The oil companies can appeal the decision to the full 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals or the U.S. Supreme Court. The decision marks the fourth time one of these lawsuits has been sent back to state courts. 

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