Levee boards association criticizes suit against oil and gas companies

The Association of Levee Boards of Louisiana formalized its opposition Wednesday to a coastal-erosion lawsuit against oil and gas companies filed by a flood protection authority representing the east bank of the New Orleans area.

The association, which represents 25 levee districts around the state, asked the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority — East to withdraw its suit. It recommended an alternative approach focused on a “constructive dialogue” among levee boards, elected officials and the energy industry on how to deal with coastal erosion.

The resolution was approved by representatives of all 16 districts attending the association’s annual meeting in New Orleans, with the exception of the local authority.

The authority’s suit seeks to force oil and gas companies to pay billions of dollars for restoration work to counteract damage to coastal wetlands allegedly caused by dredging and pipeline construction in the New Orleans area.

In the resolution, the levee boards association acknowledges that the energy industry’s activities have impacted the coast, but it says the lawsuit could harm other coastal restoration efforts.

The resolution also specifically cites a number of ongoing issues dealing with coastal restoration, including litigation related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, a state lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers and efforts to get Louisiana a larger share of offshore oil revenue. It suggests that these efforts require all of the state’s levee boards to act in concert.

The association’s executive committee spoke out against the suit in August, less than a month after it was filed. As in Tuesday’s vote, the only member of the executive committee who supported the suit then was from the local flood-protection authority.

The suit also has faced strong opposition from Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration.