La. flood board to sue oil companies over erosion

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A New Orleans area levee authority says it plans to sue dozens of oil, gas and pipeline companies for their alleged roles in the loss of coastal lands that serve as a natural buffer against hurricanes.

The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East's board of commissioners has scheduled a Wednesday news conference about the litigation it plans to file in New Orleans.

The authority, which bears many of the costs of protecting the region from floods, claims Louisiana has lost hundreds of thousands of acres of protective coastal land because of drilling and dredging for canals and pipelines.

The authority covers most of the New Orleans area, governing the Orleans Levee District, the Lake Borgne Basin Levee District and the East Jefferson Levee District.

Such districts are responsible for the operation and maintenance of a multibillion-dollar system of gates, walls and armored levees that the Army Corps of Engineers has built since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

"The reality is that despite the new system, New Orleans is going to be increasingly vulnerable as the coast continues to erode," board vice president John Barry said in an interview this week. "You cannot build levees high enough to protect against the storms that are coming."

Barry is the author of "Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America."

In a news release Tuesday night, the authority board charges that "dozens of oil, gas and pipeline companies that cut thousands of miles of oil and gas canals and pipelines through Louisiana coastal lands are responsible for repairing the environmental buffer zone that helps protect the greater New Orleans region from catastrophic flooding."

"I think this is the first time that an entity like the authority has brought a suit like this," said Gladstone Jones, an attorney representing the board.

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