It’s About Time

 

Louisiana Agency Sues Dozens of Energy Companies for Damage to Wetlands - NYTimes.com

Louisiana Agency Sues Dozens of Energy Companies for Damage to Wetlands – NYTimes.com.

“This protective buffer took 6,000 years to form,” the state board that oversees flood-protection efforts for much of the New Orleans area argued in court filings, adding that “it has been brought to the brink of destruction over the course of a single human lifetime.”

According to the lawsuit, the miles of pipelines and access canals have led to saltwater encroachment and the imminent death of the wetlands.

Why are the marshes important?  Storm floodwater protection – the wetlands act like a giant sponge, soaking up the floodwaters pushed ashore by Gulf storms.

The suit argues that the environmental buffer serves as an essential protection against storms by softening the blow of any incoming hurricane before it gets to the line of levees, flood walls, and gates and pumps maintained and operated by the board. Losing the “natural first line of defense against flooding” means that the levee system is “left bare and ill-suited to safeguard south Louisiana,” the lawsuit says.

Of course the energy companies drilling and pipelines have damaged the marsh, and that damage needs to be repaired.  But other factors are also in play – mainly the channeling of the Mississippi River.  Instead of allowing the river to flow free, and dump its heavy sediment load in the delta, people have built dams, levees, and channels to enable shipping and control floods.  And the sediment no longer rebuilds the delta.

The lawsuit relies on well-established legal theories of negligence and nuisance, as well as elements of law more particular to the Louisiana Civil Code, including “servitude of drain,” which relates to changing patterns of water flow and drainage across the Bayou State. Even though the industry has been producing oil and gas for 100 years, because the damage is continuing to occur, the board argues, the statute of limitations should not apply.

We’ll see where this ends up.  The issue is of prime importance to the people who live in coastal Louisiana, including New Orleans.

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