The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East won a round in court Thursday, keeping its suit against oil and gas companies alive until a federal appeals court can hear the case at the end of the month.
The state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal upheld a Baton Rouge district judge’s ruling that the Flood Protection Authority was within its rights to hire outside attorneys to sue the energy firms for coastal erosion caused by decades of drilling and dredging.
After the Flood Protection Authority filed its suit in 2013, the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association filed a suit saying that then-Attorney General Buddy Caldwell should not have signed off on the board’s decision to hire outside lawyers to represent it.
District Judge Janice Clark sided with Caldwell and the authority, dismissing the LOGA suit.
Chief Judge Vanessa Whipple and Judges Jewel “Duke” Welch and Ernest Drake of the 1st Circuit affirmed Clark’s decision on the appeal.
“We’re very pleased with the court’s decision,” Lori Mince, an attorney for the authority, said in an emailed statement. “It confirms our client’s authority to retain counsel, which is crucial for the SLFPA-E as it pursues its claims and carries out its mission.”
She said the ruling is “also a big win for the people of Louisiana, who — more than ever during this fiscal crisis — need every resource to which they are legally entitled to help restore our coast and protect our communities from hurricanes and storm surge.”
The decision keeps the main case against the oil and gas companies alive, although it has been hanging by a thread since a federal judge ruled a year ago that the companies had no legal obligation to the authority, which has sought billions of dollars in compensation for coastal erosion that its attorneys argue has increased the cost of protecting the New Orleans region from catastrophic storms.
The attorneys who filed the case appealed Judge Nannette Jolivette Brown’s ruling. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear arguments on the appeal Feb. 29.
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