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Future of 'Big Oil' suit at stake as panel meets

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 28, 2014 at 4:57 pm •  Published: August 28, 2014

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — It will be next month before Gov. Bobby Jindal will likely get a chance to change the membership of a south Louisiana flood board that's suing dozens of oil, gas and pipeline companies.

The panel that nominates members for the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East discussed plans to fill two expired terms Thursday. But members said a vote cannot legally take place until September.

One of the expired terms is that of Paul Kemp, a supporter of the lawsuit, which Jindal opposes.

Kemp has applied for another term. However, even if he is re-nominated, Jindal would likely seek to replace him with a lawsuit opponent.

Kemp continues to serve until a successor is named. Meanwhile, the lawsuit continues in federal court.

The protection authority's lawsuit says the oil, gas and pipeline companies' dredging of canals and drilling activities contributed to the degradation of coastal wetlands that form a natural hurricane buffer for New Orleans. Backers of the litigation say the industry has had decades to remedy the situation and that the lawsuit is needed to fund coastal restoration.

Jindal and oil industry backers attacked the lawsuit as an assault on an important Louisiana industry, a windfall for trial lawyers and an infringement on the state's efforts to fix the coast.

Along with Kemp, another authority member whose term has expired is Jeff Angers, who also has re-applied. He opposes the lawsuit.

Kemp's nomination is key, however, because if Jindal is able to replace Kemp, he could then swing the current 5-4 majority on the flood board that supports the suit.

The way in which the nominations are made next month could figure into Jindal's ability to affect the lawsuit.

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