Dan Fagan’s column seeking to free the oil industry of its complicity in the destruction of the coast stands in outrageous opposition to most agreed-upon science and the realities of Louisiana’s coastal losses. Is the oil industry the sole reason for coastal erosion? No, but it has aggravated the issue, in conjunction with levee mismanagement, manipulation of water flows and a general lack of interest in repairing the damages it knows it's caused.
The coastal lawsuits in question have never been premised on blaming the industry for all coastal land loss, but in holding it to its contractual obligations to repair the wetlands that it has damaged. There are extensive examples in coastal Louisiana where those obligations were not met. Those specific legal obligations, and only those, are the substance of the lawsuits.
Under any scientific assessment, the oil industry caused a significant amount of coastal loss, primarily by dredging canals for exploration and extraction. The state's website acknowledges the basic facts: “Canals, dredged for navigation or in support of mineral extraction, have allowed saltwater to penetrate into previously fresh marshes.” (Lacoast.gov) The U.S. Geological Survey concludes that “throughout the wetlands, an extensive system of dredged canals and flood-control structures, constructed to facilitate hydrocarbon exploration and production as well as commercial and recreational boat traffic, has enabled salt water from the Gulf of Mexico to intrude brackish and freshwater wetlands. Moreover, forced drainage of the wetlands to accommodate development and agriculture also contribute to wetlands deterioration and loss.”
LSU Wetlands scientist Eugene Turner has proposed that Louisiana “rake the dirt piled on the bank of canals leading to plugged and abandoned oil and gas wells back into the canals and allow nature to restore their wetlands” for a fraction of the cost of larger projects. Turner also warned that in the “politically charged arena of Louisiana’s coastal restoration efforts, finding ways of convincing the oil and gas industry to refill their canals” would be a difficult task.
Fagan proves Turner’s concerns justified. We continue to go in circles while our wetlands suffer, we lose Louisiana communities, and pieces like Fagan’s solely exist to help the industry evade responsibility.