NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry moved Tuesday to take over lawsuits filed by three parishes that claim oil and gas activities have damaged coastal wetlands.
Landry’s office says it filed motions to intervene in 39 state court lawsuits filed by Cameron, Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes against numerous oil and gas companies.
The documents say Landry, as the state’s chief legal officer, should be allowed to supersede the attorneys hired by the individual parishes.
The parishes’ attorneys did not immediately respond Tuesday to requests for comment.
Landry’s office says any penalties or payments for damages or restoration costs that might result from the lawsuits should go to the state.
In a news release announcing the move, Landry said having 39 lawsuits filed by three parishes over claims of coastal erosion and degradation complicates the state’s coastal protection and restoration efforts.
“This intervention will ensure that the collaborative work of the State and Parishes on coastal restoration is not threatened with continuous, fragmented lawsuits,” the news release said. “It allows these issues to be addressed in totality and in a fair, consistent manner.”
In Plaquemines Parish, the motions note that the parish government voted in November to end its lawsuit, but add “the Attorney General intervenes to protect any State rights that may be lost through a dismissal of this suit by the Parish.”
Lawsuits by the three parishes followed the filing in 2013 of a lawsuit making similar organizations against the oil and gas industry by the flood protection authority that oversees New Orleans area levee boards — the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East.
Oil and gas companies were able to have that suit moved from state to federal court. A judge dismissed it last year but the flood protection board has an appeal pending.
At both the state and parish level the lawsuits have been derided by industry supporters as an attack on an important industry and a money-grab by attorneys. Supporters of the lawsuits say the industry has not been held fully accountable for coastal damage associated with drilling, dredging of canals and related pollution.
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