Our Views: Roadblock to court

Jimmy Faircloth appeared before the a legislative committee Wednesday, predicting that courts will reject the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East lawsuit accusing 97 energy companies of harming Louisiana’s coastline.

But the former executive counsel to Gov. Bobby Jindal must lack confidence in his own legal skills, because Faircloth was simultaneously pushing Senate Bill 469, which seeks to erase the lawsuit before a court has a chance to prove him right.

Faircloth wrote the bill, which is one of more than a dozen that seeks to derail the lawsuit. There are reasons to be skeptical of the litigation, which was hatched in secret and is being pushed by attorneys who were chosen without the benefit of a public selection process — and offered as much as 32.5 percent of the proceeds.

SB469 seeks to wipe the suit away by mandating that only government agencies with a Coastal Management Plan be allowed to bring claims involving allegations in coastal areas. That provision achieves its goal of eliminating the SLFPA-E suit, assuming courts agree that it can be applied retroactively.

But the measure places constraints on other flood control agencies and governments that had nothing to do with the SLFPA-E suit.

To begin with, it punishes the counterpart flood protection authority for the west bank of the Mississippi, which rejected the suit.

Moreover, it could impact similar lawsuits filed by Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes and by other parishes that might have claims. Supporters of SB469 assure that it would not damage the lawsuits filed by the two parishes. That’s fine as far as it goes, but the basis for those suits and others that might be filed in the future would be limited. The act would seem to preclude claims for perils posed by general degradation of wetlands and for the increased costs of maintaining levees and floodwalls as the Gulf of Mexico inches closer to the line of protection.

Four of five Louisiana voters supported creating the independent flood control authorities in 2006, when memories of Hurricane Katrina were fresh. Because they are independent, they won’t always follow the wishes of the political classes. And in the case of the suit, the authorities on opposite sides of the Mississippi didn’t even agree with each other.

But maintaining their independence is more important than killing the lawsuit, especially since there will be litigation regardless of SB469, thanks to the Jefferson and Plaquemines suits.

The Jindal administration has acknowledged that energy exploration played some role in damaging Louisiana’s coastline, and a more productive course would be to bring the flood authorities and the parishes and the industry to the table to find a solution that benefits our state, provides a predictable business environment, cuts the lawyers out of the action and dedicates every penny to protection.