Garret Graves, who chairs the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) and advises Gov. Bobby Jindal on coastal issues, took to Twitter in recent days to continue his boss’s campaign to scuttle the lawsuit filed against oil and gas companies by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E). The flood authority sued 97 energy companies, seeking damages and reparations for decades of coastal land loss. Jindal and Graves were the first to take up Big Oil’s case.
Graves, tweeting as @garretgraves, blasted the flood authority’s lead counsel in the lawsuit, local environmental lawyer Glad Jones, on July 23. “For atty Gladstone Jones to say the Corps’ funding of Katrina levee repairs absolves them of coastal loss liability is ignorant,” Graves tweeted.
Later that same day, he took another shot at Jones: “Gladstone Jones is so out of his league. Has no business litigating coastal issues with such irresponsible statements.”
Actually, Jones is one of the most successful environmental lawyers in the state. He previously won the state’s largest coastal loss case, collecting more than $100 million in damages from Exxon and Noble Energy on behalf of client Bill Dore, who was oilman of the year on several occasions while serving as the founder and largest shareholder of Global Industries, a publically held oil service company located in Sulphur, La.
Jones also successfully sued Exxon on behalf of residents of the tiny town of Grand Bois in the 1990s. Since then, he has litigated environmental cases across the country. Jones’ other environmental clients include former Gov. Mike Foster, who is no friend of trial lawyers. Foster filed a legacy lawsuit for damage to his property in St. Mary Parish.
It didn’t take long for the oil and gas industry to play a political trump card in the nascent but epic legal battle over who should pay to rebuild Louisiana’s vanishing coastal wetlands. Gov. Bobby Jindal rushed to the industry’s defense the same day that a local flood protection authority sued 97 oil and gas companies over coastal land loss. Jindal said the flood board had been “hijacked by a group of trial lawyers.”
The governor also claimed the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E), which filed the suit on July 24, “overstepped its authority” by tackling coastal land-loss issues, which historically are overseen by the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. Jindal called the suit “nothing but a windfall for a handful of trial lawyers.”
It should come as no surprise that the energy industry, arguably the richest in the world, applied political pressure to resolve a potentially expensive legal issue. After all, political connections — forged by free-flowing campaign money and year-round lobbying and schmoozing — have allowed oil and gas companies to have their way with state regulators, governors and legislators for decades.
And why not start with pressure from the top? The list of named defendants includes some of the biggest names in Big Oil — and some of the biggest political contributors: Koch Industries, Atlantic Richfield, BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, McMoRan, Shell, Tennessee Gas Pipeline and Pickens, to name just a few.
Coincidentally, or perhaps not, Jindal issued his attack against the lawsuit and the plaintiff lawyers from Aspen, Colo., where he was attending the Republican Governors meeting. Last Thursday, July 25, Jindal was scheduled to speak at an Aspen Institute-sponsored event called The McCloskey Speakers Series. David Koch, one of the Koch brothers, is on the Board of Trustees of the Aspen Institute. Koch Industries is among the named defendants in the lawsuit.
The state board that oversees flood protection for southeast Louisiana will file a massive, historic lawsuit on Wednesday against several hundred oil and gas companies, seeking to make them pay the costs of restoring coastal wetlands that have been lost as a result of energy exploration and development in southeast Louisiana.
Gambit was given an advance copy of the suit, which alleges that a vast network of oil and gas canals carved out of southeast Louisiana’s marshes exposed all of southeast Louisiana to additional flood risks — and much higher costs of flood protection — because the canals, along with related oil and gas activities, caused or accelerated coastal land loss.
The suit will be brought in Civil District Court by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E). It will name more than 100 oil and gas companies as defendants and bring scores of lawyers to the table in an epic legal battle that could go on for years. Among the first anticipated moves by Big Oil will be a motion to “remove” the suit to federal court, where judges and juries are believed by many in the legal community to be more conservative and thus friendlier to Big Oil’s anticipated defenses and procedural moves to quash the suit.
If the suit is even moderately successful in the early procedural stages, the list of plaintiffs — currently there is only one, the local flood protection authority — could grow substantially.
Lead plaintiff’s counsel Glad Jones, who has successfully brought environmental lawsuits against Big Oil and others in the past, told Gambit that the suit has the potential to be bigger than the ongoing BP litigation. The lawsuit focuses on oil and gas exploration and development east of the Mississippi River below Orleans Parish, but if the list of plaintiffs grows, the scope of the lawsuit could also grow.
The case ultimately could seek environmental recovery for all oil and gas activity along Louisiana’s coast. If that happens, this case will be to Big Oil what the Tobacco Litigation was to that industry: a game-changer.
Jones has assembled a team of more than a dozen top-drawer lawyers to bring the case, and Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell has authorized SLFPA-E to proceed against Big Oil.
The flood protection authority was created by the state Legislature after Hurricane Katrina as part of levee board consolidation in southeast Louisiana. SLFPA-E comprises the Orleans Levee District, the Lake Borgne Basin Levee District (in St. Bernard Parish) and the East Jefferson Levee District.
“If they believe the expert scientific testimony given by our witnesses, then we win the lawsuit,” Jones told writer Bob Marshall of The Lens. “That’s what this will all come down to — the science.” (Note: Marshall has an excellent story on the lawsuit HERE.)
Transocean Deepwater Inc. has agreed to pay $400 million in criminal fines and penalties and, within the terms of a proposed partial consent decree, $1 billion for Clean Water Act violations for its role in the 2010 Gulf oil disaster.
The order mandates $150 million of the $400 million will be dedicated to "acquiring, restoring, preserving and conserving" marine and coastal environments and wildlife habitat along the Gulf of Mexico, and a portion will also benefit barrier island restoration and wetland restoration along Louisiana. An additional $150 million will be directed to training for and implementing proper drilling procedures. The unprecedented $1 billion from Clean Water Act violations will be subject to the recently approved RESTORE Act, which will funnel 80 percent to Gulf Coast states
Under the settlement, Transocean also must implement federally mandated improvements to rig conditions, rig safety and emergency response. With its guilty plea, Transocean admits that its crewmembers aboard the Deepwater Horizon failed to fully investigate whether the well was secure, and that oil and gas were flowing into the well before its explosion and months-long leak in 2010.
In a statement, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said, "This resolution of criminal allegations and civil claims against Transocean brings us one significant step closer to justice for the human, environmental and economic devastation wrought by the Deepwater Horizon disaster."
Updated 12:05 p.m., following Coast Guard press conference.
Here's a quick summary of some of the updates from this morning's news of an oil platform (not a rig) that caught fire in the Gulf of Mexico at about 9:15 a.m.:
The U.S. Coast Guard announced that an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico was on fire — Facebook photos shared with KLFY-TV confirmed.
Houston station KHOU-TV reported
two deaths on the platform, with two missing (presumed dead) and four with serious injuries, who were airlifted from the platform.
Update (12:05 p.m.): U.S. Coast Guard reports there no confirmed deaths, though there are two missing platform workers.
From WWL-TV: The platform is about 20 miles from Grand Isle and is owned by Houston-based Black Elk Energy (which also has offices in Louisiana). The platform workers arrived at West Jefferson Medical Center, then transported to Baton Rouge Burn Center, where they are in critical condition.
KLFY also reported that the fire likely started after platform maintenance workers cut into a pipe from which oil may have escaped. WWL reported that the platform was not producing any oil.
According to WWNO, Black Elk Energy owns, operates or has a financial interest in more than 854 wells on 155 platforms across 430,000 acres offshore.
The Coast Guard reported that there were 26 workers on the platform (though initial reports said there were 28), and a total of nine people were air-lifted. Grand Isle EMS met other workers as they arrived on shore.
According to WWL, Plaquemines Parish officials contained the fire by 10:30 a.m., and Jefferson Parish officials later reported the fire was out.
Follow the Twitter hashtag #platformfire for breaking updates.
Update (12:05): Ed Cubanski, incident management branch chief for the 8th Coast Guard district said the fire likely started from a torch used to cut a 75-feet-long line on the platform. There may have been 28 gallons of oil in the pipe, and a one half-mile-long oil sheen has been spotted in the area. Eleven people were Medevaced to four area hospitals, and Coast Guard crew from Venice, Grand Isle and New Orleans are looking for two crewmembers. Four crewmembers are being treated for burns in Baton Rouge.
BP has agreed to plead guilty to 14 federal criminal counts related to the 2010 Gulf Oil Disaster — including 11 counts of felony manslaughter for the workers killed in the Deepwater Horizon explosion — U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced at a New Orleans press conference today.
"BP has agreed to plead guilty to all 14 criminal charges including responsibility for the deaths of 11 people and the events that led to an environmental catastrophe," Holder said. "The company has also agreed to pay $4 billion in fines and in penalties. This marks both the largest single criminal fine — more than $1.25 billion — and the largest total criminal resolution — $4 billion — in the history of the United States."
The U.S. Department of Justice has also indicted two former supervisors on the Deepwater Horizon — Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine — for manslaughter. Kaluza and Vidrine are scheduled to be arraigned on Nov. 28.
"After nearly three years and tens of millions of dollars in investigation, the Government needs a scapegoat. Bob was not an executive or high-level BP official. He was a dedicated rig worker who mourns his fallen co-workers every day.m No one should take any satisfaction in this indictment of an innocent man. This is not justice," reads an emailed statement from Kaluza's attorneys Shaun Clarke and David Gerger.
(More after the jump)
The America’s WETLAND Foundation's latest report urges lawmakers to pledge billions of dollars to Gulf Coast restoration.
Released today, “Beyond Unintended Consequences: Adaptation for Gulf Coast Resiliency and Sustainability" is the result of forums held in 11 Gulf Coast communities (including Lake Charles, Avery Island, Houma, Plaquemines Parish and New Orleans) in the last year. It gathered 1,100 "stakeholders" in environment, business, government and other agencies to make recommendations for rebuilding the coast. The report also based its recommendations on the findings of a $4.2 million study from Entergy.
The 30 recommendations outlined in the report are a "roadmap for adaptation and long-term sustainability, beginning with an urgent need for federal policy changes," it says. The report's opening letter co-signed by Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and officials from Gulf Coast states reads, "We are pleased that this cooperative initiative has positioned the Gulf Coast to adapt to change. Resiliency is often talked about these days, but meaningful action is scarce, and the country cannot afford to wait."
Hurricane Isaac may well have put Braithwaite on the map for many people around the country watching the harrowing news reports of flooding there. But regular shoppers at the Crescent City Farmers Market likely already have a strong association between the tiny Plaquemines Parish town and fresh citrus. That’s because Braithwaite is home to two market vendors and citrus-growing families — Lester and Linda L'Hoste of L’Hoste Family Farm and Kenneth and Aloma Savastano of A&K Citrus.
Farmers market director Emery Van Hook says she has heard from both families, and reports that they are safe and are now waiting for flood waters to recede before taking stock of their homes and farms.
While the city of New Orleans is now largely in clean-up mode, many of the farmers, fishermen and fresh food vendors who supply our kitchens and restaurants live and work in areas that have been devastated by Isaac, from low-lying coastal areas to communities in the River Parishes, on the northshore and in Mississippi that are now grappling with severe inland flooding.
The American Public Transportation Association (APTA), in partnership with The Sierra Club and The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), hosts its seventh annual National Dump the Pump Day Thursday, June 21.
The goal of National Dump the Pump Day is to make citizens aware of the benefits of using public transportation as opposed to driving: reducing the carbon footprint, decreasing fuel dependency, minimizing congestion and saving money on gas, maintenance, insurance and parking.
(More details—including how to ride with Gambit and get your #DumpthePumpNOLA pictures posted—below the jump.)
Fantastic! In my neighborhood! Yum.
is your penis an "innie"
A Message 2 Musicians who think MUSIC is NEW ORLEANS: In order for, you musicians,…
more on the signing at http://www.octaviabooks.com/event/phillip-…
The Noise Ordinance should meet the needs of an economically viable New Orleans that can…
And don't forget that Ignatius drank tooo, treee or more of Dr Nuts!!!. Dr Pepper…
The guy is Snooki with a beard. The fact that some people take him so…
God's speed, Rodrigue
A word to the wise. NEVER celebrate after you have been declared cancer free. You…
to "Clancy's Reckoning;" If you have any doubt about Gambit's judgement of character chew on…