Louisiana’s Coastal Zone Laws and Restoration Responsibilities: The Ongoing SLFPA-E Litigation

In July of last year, Jones, Swanson, Huddell & Garrison and its partner firms filed suit on behalf of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E) against 97 oil and gas companies. The suit alleges that these companies’ activities caused coastal wetlands loss, affecting the Authority’s ability to provide adequate flood protection to New Orleans, St. Bernard, East Jefferson, and surrounding areas.

The suit draws in part from Louisiana’s coastal zone laws, which have been in place for 34 years and carefully detail conditions of conducting oil and gas activities. Some examples of these obligations are:

  • “Mineral exploration and production facilities shall be … designed, constructed, and maintained in such a manner to maintain natural water flow regimes, avoid blocking surface drainage, and avoid erosion.” 43 LA ADC Pt. I, § 719(D).
  • “Mineral exploration, production, and refining facilities shall be designed and constructed using best practical techniques to minimize adverse environmental impacts.” 43 LA ADC Pt. I, § 719(J).
  • “Mineral exploration and production sites shall be cleared, revegetated, detoxified, and otherwise restored as near as practicable to their original condition upon termination of operations to the maximum extent practicable.” 43 LA ADC Pt. I, § 719(M).
  • “Linear facilities” (e.g. canals) “shall be planned, designed, located, and built using the best practical techniques to minimize disruption of natural hydrologic and sediment transport patterns, sheet flow, and water quality and to minimize adverse impacts on wetlands.” 43 LA ADC Pt. I, § 705(I).
  • “Linear facilities shall be planned, designed, and built using the best practical techniques to prevent bank slumping and erosion, and saltwater intrusion, and to minimize the potential for inland movement of storm-generated surges. Consideration shall be given to the use of locks in navigation canals and channels which connect more saline areas with fresher areas.” 43 LA ADC Pt. I, § 705(J).
  • “Areas dredged for linear facilities shall be backfilled or otherwise restored to the pre-existing conditions upon cessation of use for navigation purposes to the maximum extent practicable.” 43 LA ADC Pt. I, § 705(N).

Between 1932 and 2010, Louisiana lost more than 1,788 square miles of coastal land, about 1/3 of that disappearing since 1990. Couvillion, B.R., et al., 2011, Land area change in coastal Louisiana from 1932 to 2010: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Map 3164, scale 1:265,000, 12 p. pamphlet. The Authority’s suit seeks to compel companies to fulfill their longstanding obligations under these permits – and restore their fair share of wetlands loss. The Parishes of Plaquemines and Jefferson have also filed suit seeking to enforce Coastal Zone regulations.