After the Great Flood of 1927, when most of the Mississippi River Valley was submerged, Congress ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to build the series of enormous levees we have today. Around the same time as the corps was finishing the levees, oil and gas were discovered in the coastal zone, and oil companies began to moved in.
With no laws or regulations protecting wetlands, 50,000 wells were permitted in the coastal zone. This led to over 10,000 miles of canals being dredged for oil and gas, which eviscerated the delta.
Today, the State of Louisiana loses a football field of land every hour, with over 1 million football fields gone to date. Dozens of reports have shown that the highest rate of land loss has occurred in areas with the heaviest amount of oil and gas extraction and canal dredging. Some studies say that the oil and gas industry is responsible for between 36 to 60 percent of that loss.
Even after passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972, oil and gas companies were never forced to comply with permits requiring that they restore land after using it. Canals were never refilled, waste pits were not properly disposed of, and often when wells ran dry, companies were allowed to simply abandoned the area. In fact, there are now over 27,000 abandoned oil wells in the Gulf region.
In response, and after the devastating storms of 2005, a landmark lawsuit was brought forth by the flood protection authority – an independent group authorized by 80 percent of Louisiana voters. The suit sought compensation from 97 oil, gas and pipeline companies for the destruction they have caused.
Then Governor Bobby Jindal sought to pass laws which retroactively preventing the levee board from suing, and managed to get a bill passed, in response. That law is now being challenged in federal court.
Meanwhile, similar litigation in state court was begun through 39 lawsuits filed by Plaquemines, Jefferson, and Cameron Parishes. Recently, and after Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry stepped into file an intervention, Governor John Bel Edwards, also intervened in the lawsuits to “ensure that the interests of the state of Louisiana are fully protected.”