Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East Commissioners Stephen Estopinal, Paul Kemp, Rick Luettich, Wilton Tilly and Louis Wittie would like to vigorously dispute recent portrayals that SLFPAE is unwillingly trapped into continuing litigation against the many oil and gas companies that are undeniably responsible for land loss within our authority and more broadly across southern Louisiana. Since the time this lawsuit was filed, the underlying problem has not diminished, but rather coastal land loss has continued unabated. While the woefully underfunded Louisiana Coastal Master Plan offers possible solutions, it is widely recognized that these will never be realized with currently identified funding.
When SLFPAE first considered this litigation, it was because of the clear evidence that oil and gas activities were responsible for significant coastal land loss and because the logical plaintiff, the state of Louisiana, had been unwilling to take action on this issue for more than 50 years. Discussions with CPRA leadership in 2012-13 indicated that the state was still unwilling to take action. SLFPAE commissioners were informed that this would be a difficult case and that it could take years (including appeals) to be resolved.
Thus, we entered into an agreement with our legal team that put the full burden on them to win the case or not be paid. This minimized the financial risk to SLFPAE yet offered the potential of a substantial financial recovery for the citizens of Louisiana if the effort was successful.
On the other hand, we felt it was fair that the lawyers receive compensation for their work if the litigation was terminated before it had fully run its course. What has become known as the “poison pill” was, in fact, a good faith assurance by SLFPAE that we were in this for the long haul. We recognized the commitment of the legal team to fight this battle in the court system entirely at their own financial risk. In return, we committed either to stick with them through what we expected to be a long and difficult process or to fairly compensate them for their work.
Today, the majority of the SLFPAE commissioners is still convinced that this litigation is consistent with our mission to ensure that New Orleans remains a safe place to live and that it has the potential to provide benefits for the entire Louisiana coastal zone. We have no desire to renege on the commitment we made to our legal team when they agreed to pursue this litigation on behalf of SLFPAE and the citizens of Louisiana. Rather, the majority of the SLFPAE commissioners remains committed to continuing our efforts to obtain just compensation for the damages caused by oil and gas activities in coastal Louisiana.
I am submitting this on behalf of the above-named SLFPAE commissioners.
Morehead City, North Carolina