Tuesday, September 26, 2023
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Oil & Gas Use Parishes as Toxic Dumps

NEW ORLEANS (CN) - Plaquemines and Jefferson Parishes, at the mouth of the Mississippi River, claim in court that dozens of oil and gas companies' shoddy canals, drilling and dump sites have caused increasing, and illegal, damage to the coast.

The parishes demand the oil companies clean up their mess.

The parishes filed 28 lawsuits last week - 21 in Plaquemines Parish, and seven in Jefferson Parish - claiming the oil and gas companies' toxic pollution violated the state's Coastal Zone Act.

A Louisiana parish is equivalent to a county.

Plaquemines Parish, a 100-mile peninsula at the mouth of the Mississippi, was all but destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and was nearly destroyed again by Hurricane Isaac in 2012.

Jefferson Parish surrounds New Orleans and includes Grand Isle, Ground Zero for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The oil and gas companies' drilling sites and waste facilities were not built to withstand "all expectable adverse conditions without releasing pollutants," including leaching, according to a typical lawsuit, from Plaquemines Parish. (Parish of Plaquemines v. Apache Oil Corp., Exxon Mobil Corp. ... Chevron U.S.A., et al.)

The defendants have dumped radioactive materials, including radium 226, radium 228 and naturally occurring radioactive materials, according to the complaint.

To dispose of the toxic chemicals, the defendants use unlined waste pits, "which are simply holes, ponds, or excavations dug into the ground or marsh," the complaint states.

Many of the dump pits have never been closed, or have not been properly closed, the parishes claim.

Closing the pits would have required transfer of the toxins, which would have required a permit, and defendants never applied for permits, the parishes say.

They claim the defendants' waste pits have caused "ever increasing damage to Plaquemines Parish Coastal Zone."

Defendants have discharged oilfield wastes directly into parish waters, and "the contamination deposited in the operational area as a result of defendants' activities has had a detrimental effect on the quality of the receiving state waters, on plant and animal life, and on humans who are exposed to such contamination."

Defendants violated regulations by failing to use the "best practical techniques to prevent bank slumping, erosion and saltwater intrusion and to minimize the potential for inland movement of storm-generated surges;" this resulted in the "degradation" of the parish, the lawsuit states.

Defendants' violations have changed the oxygen concentrations in coastal waters, which marine biologists have blamed for "dead zones," where marine life is impossible.

Defendants' destructive include "adverse alterations" of streams, wetlands, tidal passes, inshore waters and waterbottoms, beaches, dunes, barrier islands, and other "natural biologically valuable areas or protective coastal features," resulting in land loss and erosion, increased potential for flooding and hurricanes, and increased likelihood that storms will cause environmental damage, the lawsuit states.

Defendants' activities also have reduced the long-term biological productivity of the coastal ecosystem, according to the parishes.

In July, the flood protection authority that maintains levees in greater New Orleans came under heat from Gov. Bobby Jindal after it sued 99 oil and gas companies, claiming that "hundreds of thousands of acres of the coastal lands that once protected south Louisiana are now gone as a result of oil and gas industry activities."

Jindal said at the time that oil and gas companies would not respond favorably to aggressive tactics to encourage coastal restoration.

Wetlands in Louisiana are lost at a staggering rate, equivalent to a football field every 30 minutes.

Plaintiffs seek environmental restoration and "costs necessary to clear, revegetate, detoxify and otherwise restore the affected portions of the Plaquemines Parish Coastal Zone as near as practicable to its original condition."

Defendants in the lawsuits include Chevron, HHE Energy Co., Shell, Apache Oil Corp., Exchange Oil & Gas Corp., BP, Great Southern Oil & Gas Co. Inc., ConocoPhillips Co., Exxon Mobil Corp., Linder Oil Co.; Stone Energy Corp., PCS Phosphate Co. Inc.; Stone Petroleum, LLOG Exploration & Production Co., Freeport Sulfur Co.; Texas Co.; Equitable Petroleum Corp; Helis Oil & Gas Co.; Anadarko E&P Onshore, June Energy Inc., Kenmore Oil Co., Linder Oil Co.; Freeport McMoRan Oil & Gas, Riverwood Production Co., Graham Royalty Ltd., BEPCO LP, BOPCO LP, Campbell Energy Corp., Paxton Oil Co., Northcoast Oil Co., Chevron USA, Equitable Petroleum Corp., Devon Energy Production Co, Caskids Operating Co., Goodrich Petroleum Co., Hilcorp Energy Co., Noble Energy Inc., Palm Energy Offshore, S2 Energy Corp., Canlan Oil Co., Source Petroleum Inc., Rozel Operating Co., Louisiana Land & Exploration Co., Atlantic Richfield, American Petrofina Inc. and PCS Phosphate Co.

Plaintiffs are represented by John H. Carmouche, with Talbot, Carmouche and Marcello, of Baton Rouge.

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