Louisiana Sues Big Oil for Loss of Coastal Wetlands
After decades of operating with complete disregard for the environment, the dirty energy industry finally has to face the music for destroying the wetlands that form a natural barrier against storm damage in the state of Louisiana.
The suit, filed by the board of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East, claims that the oil and gas industry's irresponsible pipeline placement, drilling and excavation methods have eroded and polluted vital wetlands in Louisiana.
The New York Times has more:
The board argues that the energy companies, including BP and ExxonMobil, should be held responsible for fixing damage done by cutting thousands of miles of oil and gas access and pipeline canals through the wetlands. It alleges that the network functioned “as a mercilessly efficient, continuously expanding system of ecological destruction,” killing vegetation, eroding soil and allowing salt water into freshwater areas.
The suit argues that the environmental buffer serves as an essential protection against storms by softening the blow of any incoming hurricane before it gets to the line of levees, flood walls, gates and pumps maintained and operated by the board. Losing the “natural first line of defense against flooding” means that the levee system is “left bare and ill-suited to safeguard south Louisiana,” the lawsuit says. The “unnatural threat” caused by exploration, it states, “imperils the region’s ecology and its people’s way of life—in short, its very existence.”
The suit alleges that the wetlands, which took more than 6,000 years to form, provide vital protection for the state from the impacts of severe storms, floods, and hurricanes. The degradation caused by the dirty energy industry’s activities leaves the state more vulnerable to the effects of severe weather.
The lawsuit has been adamantly opposed by Republican Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal who, according to The New York Times, claims that the board has “overstepped its authority” in filing the suit. It is worth noting that the dirty energy industry has been a substantial financial backer of Gov. Jindal, contributing nearly a quarter of a million dollars to his campaigns. They also report that Jindal claimed the board had been “hijacked” by “trial lawyers.”
Board member John Barry says that the board took all necessary steps, including conferring with the state Attorney General, before hiring an outside law firm and filing suit against the industry.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the federal government spent roughly $14 billion to repair damaged levees around New Orleans. An attorney for the plaintiffs in the new lawsuit says that it is now time for private industry to pay their fair share for their role in the degradation of the wetlands and subsequent weakening of critical natural protections for the state in an era of pollution-fueled climate disruption.
The civil suit is a major step forward for all American citizens, not just those in the Bayou State. While major politicians like Gov. Jindal may oppose the suit, the necessity of it is clearly undeniable. This suit will serve as a bellwether case against the industry that, if successful, could lead to further lawsuits against the industry for similar damages all over the country.
Pay close attention to this case as it moves forward—it may just set a precedent that could help to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for the extensive damage caused by their short-term thinking. In particular, it should put an end to the unnecessary destruction of our natural protective barriers against extreme weather damage.
Visit EcoWatch’s BIODIVERSITY page for more related news on this topic.
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When Leaders and Doctors Spread Misinformation<p>When people in charge of towns, cities, states, and countries spread misinformation, the potential for belief in misinformation to result in policies can have harmful effects.</p><p><a href="https://www.northwell.edu/find-care/find-a-doctor?q=Bruce+E.+Hirsch%2C+MD&insurance=&location=&query_type=provider&physician_partners=false&default_view=list&gender=&language=&sort=relevancy" target="_blank">Dr. Bruce E. Hirsch</a>, attending physician and assistant professor in the infectious disease division of Northwell Health in Manhasset, New York, says an example of this is when President Trump informed the public he was taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure.</p><p>"To approach this enormous challenge, we need some intellectual honesty and clarity, and to disregard expertise and to make decisions and model decisions based on hunches is inviting us to handle challenges on the basis of rumor and uninformed opinion. The magnitude of that error is epic," Hirsch told Healthline.</p><p>Stukus agrees, noting that the harm of this proclamation is documented.</p><p>"Early on when the president touted the benefits of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, people started to hoard this medicine, and state boards had to shut it down because they were getting so many prescriptions for this unproven therapy that it was not available for those who truly needed it, such as those who have lupus and autoimmune conditions," Stukus said.</p><p>He adds that calls to poison control centers increased after the president suggested using disinfectant to prevent contracting the new coronavirus.</p>
Listen to Science, Even When it Changes<p>When recommendations change or evidence flip-flops, skepticism may arise. However, Stukus says change is the beauty of science.</p><p>"That shows us that we can evolve, and if the evidence shows that our prior thoughts were incorrect, we need to be able to change our recommendations and advice based upon the best quality of evidence at the time," he said.</p><p>Pierre agrees.</p><p>"Science is an iterative process, whereby we arrive at facts and truth through repeated and controlled observations. That means that it's inherently self-correcting as we revise conclusions based on ongoing research. Scientific facts aren't immutable dogma chiseled on a tablet. They change based on the best available evidence we have at a given point in time," he said.</p><p>Because research of COVID-19 has only been underway for 6 months, information is evolving rapidly, and new information may contradict old.</p><p>"There's still much we don't know about exactly how [COVID-19] spreads, what effects it has on the body, or how to best treat it. That means that the best available evidence is preliminary, but that doesn't mean that we should ignore it or turn to other sources of information or opinion as if they're just as valid," Pierre said.</p><p>He explains that conspiracy theories based on mistrust lead to vulnerability to misinformation.</p><p>If people mistrust science because it sometimes "changes its mind," Pierre said, "that shouldn't be used to embrace other opinions based on no evidence at all, which are typically selected based on confirmation bias: what we want to believe rather than what the objective evidence supports."</p>
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