In 2010, Former Governor Mike J. Foster, Jr. consulted with Jones Swanson to investigate the oil and gas exploration and production operations conducted by Quintana Petroleum Corporation, Burlington Resources Oil and Gas Company, LP, and ExxonMobil Corporation in a cypress swamp in a remote area of property owned by his family’s corporation. Jones Swanson’s investigation revealed that companies’ operations had caused extensive damage to the swamp. The Foster family hired the firm to continue its investigation, and to bring suit if a claim for damages was deemed to be appropriate.
Jones Swanson soon learned that, in 1967, operators on the drilling site had requested permission from a state regulatory agency to discharge oilfield waste, including saltwater, into a fresh-water cypress swamp. Since cypress trees don’t grow in saltwater, the request was denied and a cease and desist order was issued. That order was ignored and the operator continued discharging saltwater into the swamp for 14 more years—which killed a large number of cypress trees.
Finally, in 1982, the company stopped the discharge after a producing well went dry and could be used as an injection well. In order to construct the injection well facility, it was necessary to locate holding tanks within a protection levee so that if or when the tanks overflowed the saltwater could be contained, with none going into the swamp. The operator also placed a pipe with a control valve at the bottom of the protection levee, however, so that the saltwater within the containment levee could be released into the swamp, and so that production well would not have to be shut down. Former employees testified that the release of the saltwater through the valve-controlled pipe was not an infrequent incident.
In 1987, while conducting an airplane surveillance over this property, a Louisiana Department of Natural Resources field agent spotted a one-third mile long oil slick coming from a tank battery. The field agent took pictures and wrote up a report, noting “Oil leaking from reserve pit—sheen approx. 1/3 mile long…Fish mortality expected—fish flesh probably tainted to taste.”
Before the case went to trial, all the defendants agreed to a settlement that included an environmental clean-up.