St. John the Baptist Parish Files Lawsuit Against Oil and Gas Companies

This story was reported for WWNO -- New Orleans Public Radio

St. John the Baptist Parish is now the sixth coastal Parish to file a lawsuit against oil and gas interests. (ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST PARISH)

St. John the Baptist is the latest parish to file a lawsuit against oil and gas companies. Parish officials say the industry is partially to blame for coastal land loss.

Parish officials blame canals dug by oil and gas companies for flooding, marsh erosion, and saltwater intrusion. The St. John the Baptist district attorney’s office lists 13 companies in the suit, including Shell and Louisiana Exploration and Drilling.

In a press release, Parish District Attorney Bridget Dinvaut says though the industry has been good for the local economy, companies should “clean up the mess...and restore our coast to its original condition.”

Plaquemines, St. Bernard, Jefferson, Cameron, and Vermillion parishes have already filed similar suits.

Oliver Houck is an environmental law professor at Tulane who’s critical of the industry.  He says St. John’s suit comes after Governor John Bel Edwards sent letters to coastal parishes, asking them to file suits.

“I think it’s a safety in numbers thing,” says Houck. “I think a few brave ones went first. And the others are emboldened by what the governor did.”

If the suits succeed in the courts, it could mean big money for the parishes that have filed.