From: ENN
Published September 26, 2005 12:00 AM

Lawsuit Filed Against Major Oil Companies Alleging Ecological Damage Worsened Katrina

NEW ORLEANS — A lawsuit has been filed against several major oil companies alleging that they are culpable for the extensive damage caused by Hurricane Katrina. Attorneys Val P. Exnicios of the New Orleans law firm of Liska, Exnicios & Nungesser, and Conrad S.P. "Duke" Williams of the New Orleans law firm of St. Martin & Williams, have filed the suit, saying they companies are actually responsible for Hurricane Katrina's devastation of New Orleans.

The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court For The Eastern District of Louisiana alleges that the major oil companies' oil, gas and pipeline exploration and drilling activities throughout Southeast Louisiana resulted in ecological damages to such an extent that coastal marshes were destroyed which previously had protected New Orleans naturally from Katrina level hurricane force winds and tidal surges.

The suit alleges that over one million acres of marshlands in Southeast Louisiana were completely destroyed and have virtually disappeared, and many more millions acres are essentially non-existent, primarily because of the major oil companies' oil & gas exploration and drilling activities in Southeast Louisiana.

"Everyone has been talking about the failures of the state, local and federal governments in the wake of Hurricane Katrina," Exnicios explained. "We believe it's the right time to pinpoint who's essentially responsible for the devastation caused by Katrina in the first place -- the major oil and gas companies, who haphazardly dredged thousands of miles of exploration and drill site canals throughout South Louisiana to extract oil and gas.

"Their years of negligence and callous indifference to the marshland ecology led to Katrina's disastrous consequence. These companies together destroyed over 100 miles of terra firma between the mouth of the Mississippi River and the City of New Orleans, and its time now for a just reckoning of the devastating outcome of their quest for profits over the safety of the people and destruction of property in New Orleans."

Exnicios said that thousands of miles of pipeline and drilling rig location canals were dredged throughout southeastern Louisiana in the 100 miles between the mouth of the Mississippi River and New Orleans. Before the 1930s and 40s when "Big Oil" began dredging the thousands of their canals that today crisscross the Mississippi River Delta, the coastal marshlands provided an almost 100-mile natural barrier between the Gulf of Mexico and the City of New Orleans.

The lawsuit alleges that the oil companies "failed to maintain canals which caused damage to the stability and ecological functions of the marsh property, leading to physical removal of marsh terrain, the creation of spoil banks and impairment of natural ebb and flow of tidal water."

"The fact is that before Katrina, the City of New Orleans had already become 'Gulf-front' property," Exnicios said. "Today, the waters of the Gulf of Mexico flood New Orleans."

Plaintiffs seek to represent the interests of all Hurricane Katrina victims in the State of Louisiana.

Source: Business Wire, Liska, Exnicios & Nungesser

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