Judge Dismisses Jefferson Parish Suit Against Oil Companies

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A state judge in Jefferson Parish has dismissed the parish's litigation against oil companies accused of damaging coastal wetlands.

         Jefferson is among four coastal parishes making such claims in multiple lawsuits in state courts. Judge Stephen Enright's decision, dated Aug. 1 and made public Tuesday, says the parish's court action was premature. He agreed with oil industry lawyers who said the parish must first seek and exhaust administrative remedies through state regulatory agencies.

         "The district court's ruling makes it crystal clear that this litigation scheme is premature and inappropriate," the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association and the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association said in a joint news release.

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         John Carmouche, one of the attorneys handling the litigation for the parishes, says the ruling results from "a misunderstanding as to if an administrative procedure even exists."

         He said papers will be filed in the district court to address the issue. "We're going to cure that misunderstanding very shortly," Carmouche said.

         Similar suits have been filed in Plaquemines, Cameron and Vermilion parishes, alleging violations by the oil companies of state regulations and permits.

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         At issue are coastal oil production areas where oil companies are accused of routinely abandoning open waste pits, dumping brine and oilfield waste onto the marsh and dredging thousands of miles of canals that weren't filled back in.

         – by AP Reporter Kevin McGill


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