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Lawsuit To Force Oil Industry Funding For Wetlands Repair Facing New Legal Challenges

A lawsuit filed this week against dozens of companies in the oil industry has already gotten stiff political opposition. A Loyola University law professor sees a major legal battle erupting ahead for the levee board suing for wetlands repairs.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is calling on the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East to back off its sweeping lawsuit.

Jindal says the levee board has no right to hire private attorneys. He says the board was hijacked by trial lawyers.

Loyola law professor Dane Ciolino says defendants are likely planning the same argument.

“There no doubt will be significant pre-trial skirmishing over a myriad of issues," Ciolino said. "The first of which no doubt will be the authority of the levee board to hire these lawyers and to hire them on a contingency basis.”   

Ciolino says the case is, in fact, heading into new legal areas.

“It’s very clear under Louisiana law that the state of Louisiana is incapable of hiring lawyers on a contingency basis," he said. "In this case, the state of Louisiana did not hire these lawyers, but rather a levee authority did.”     

The board suing the companies was created after Hurricane Katrina.

Vice President John Barry says it’s an independent entity required to protect the public and property in its jurisdiction. He says wetlands are the area’s most important protection from hurricanes.

The lawsuit aims to make the oil industry repair damage caused to wetlands by canals dug to reach offshore oil reserves.

The industry says there are many reasons for coastal erosion.

Jindal says the state should decide an overall plan for restoration.

Eileen is a news reporter and producer for WWNO. She researches, reports and produces the local daily news items. Eileen relocated to New Orleans in 2008 after working as a writer and producer with the Associated Press in Washington, D.C. for seven years.

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