SB 469 is being voted on in the House of Representatives this week! SB 469 is the final big effort by this year’s legislature to undermine the authority of local entities, retroactively kill the Southeast Louisiana Flood Authority- East(SLFPA-E) lawsuit, and prevent oil and gas companies from being held accountable for the damages they have caused to our coast.
Call your Representatives and tell them to vote NO to SB469, this is why:
What does SB469 do?
Senate Bill 469 retroactively kills the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority – East’s(SLFPAE) lawsuit against 97 oil and gas companies for the damages they caused to Louisiana’s coast, but thats not all…..
SB469 ELIMINATES RIGHTS OF LOCAL GOVERNMENTAL ENTITIES, INCLUDING LEVEE DISTRICTS, TO PROTECT THEIR LEVEES AND THE PEOPLE AND PROPERTY WITHIN THEM.
1. Takes away the rights of local governmental entities, including levee districts, to pursue “any right or cause of action arising from any activity” subject to permitting under:
a. Louisiana’s Coastal Zone Management Program (La RS 49:214.21);
b. The federal Clean Water Act Provisions that relate to dredging and fill materials (33 USC sec 1344);
c. The federal Rivers and Harbors Act provisions that forbid actions that impair levees and other flood control structures (33 USC sec 408).
2. Takes away the right of local governmental entities, including levee districts, to pursue any right or cause of action arising from or related to any use or activity within the coastal zone which has a direct and significant impact on coastal waters. (La. RS 49:214.23(13)).
3. Strips away the right of levee districts to bring an action arising from any activity that impairs levees and flood control structures.
4. Strips away the right of levee districts to bring a case for damages to levees and leaves unclear who would be left with such an action.
SAVES THE PARISH SUITS, BUT THE PARISH SUITS ARE NOT ENOUGH – SLFPAE’s SUIT AIMS TO PROTECT PEOPLE AND PROPERTY, BUT THE PARISH SUITS DO NOT. The lawsuit brought by SLFPAE is designed to provide one thing – protection for the lives and property of taxpayers in the Greater New Orleans area from hurricane storm surge. The coastal lands protect the levees, and the levees protect the people, and the SLFPAE’s lawsuit is aimed directly at those goals. There is no other viable mechanism for obtaining this protection – not any state proposed alternative and not the parish lawsuits. The 28 separate parish lawsuits aim to enforce coastal use permits. But, the parish suits do not directly address land loss; they do not directly address hurricane protection; and they do not address at all the tens of thousands of acres of protective wetlands that were lost as a result of oil and gas activity between 1932 and 1978. Any restoration undertaken as a consequence of the parish lawsuits might result in some measure of hurricane protection, but hurricane protection is not the intent of those suits by any measure. Furthermore, in those parishes with separate levee districts, the parishes and the levee authorities have distinct responsibilities over distinct properties and, therefore, distinct claims and distinct damages. Last, but certainly not least, the cost of the post-Katrina repairs was over $15 billion, so it isn’t difficult to see that giving the oil companies immunity from such claims could saddle taxpayers with responsibility for many billions in additional expenses for problems caused by oil and gas activities.
Why is SB469 a bad bill?
AGAIN, THE PARISH SUITS ARE NOT ENOUGH…
FORECLOSES SETTLEMENT DISCUSSIONS. Attorney General Caldwell has suggested he has had discussions with the oil and gas industry about working out a settlement related to coastal litigation. SB469 eliminates SLFPAE’s lawsuit and, thus, removes needed leverage that would drive any further settlement discussions.
ELIMINATES RIGHTS OF ACTION FOR ALLLEVEE DISTRICTS, NOT JUST SLFPAE. Senator Allain proclaimed that levees were responsible for damage to the wetlands and that his bill is intended to prevent levee boards bringing suits related to wetlands loss. But Senator Allain’s bill takes away the ability of levee boards to bring claims related to increased costs of storm protection because it precludes claims brought for impairment to levees or flood protection structures.
Leadership should ask these questions and demand answers:
Why should levee districts not be permitted to bring suits related to damage to the levees they are responsible for maintaining and supervising?
Suppose a freighter crashed through a levee and breached it. What in this bill would prevent the shipping company from arguing that SB 469 takes away any right of action related to such an accident from the levee district that is responsible for the levee that the freighter breached?
If the levee districts cannot bring claims related to damages to the levees that they supervise, then who can?
INTERFERES WITH THE COURTS. The legislation interferes with the courts in violation of the separation of powers delineated in the Louisiana Constitution, especially in Art. II, Sec. 2. This bill would potentially affect the rights of parties in the currently pending SLFPAE lawsuit and LOGA’s suit against the Attorney General – the suit LOGA just lost. Interfering with pending cases is something the legislature should be reluctant to do.
THE SLFPAE WILL NOT SUE LANDOWNERS. Senator Allain has suggested SLFPAE’s lawsuit puts landowners at risk. This is completely unfounded, and Senator Allain knows as much. The lawyers have confirmed (verbally and in writing in their January letter to the SLFPAE) that no claims will be asserted against anyone other than the oil, gas and pipeline industry.
THE PEOPLE – THE VOTERS – SUPPORT THE SLFPAE’S LAWSUIT AND OPPOSE INTERFERENCE BY THIS LEGISLATURE. Polls and editorials by all major newspapers are against what the legislature is doing and are in support of SLFPAE’s lawsuit. The people of Louisiana are watching.