Gulf of Mexico
The $1.1 billion Lake Borgne Surge Barrier stands near the confluence of and across the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet on August 23, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo: Drew Angerer, Getty Images

Freeport-McMoRan's settlement could be the first of many. Can it save Louisiana's coast?

An oil company accused of polluting and destroying parts of Louisiana’s quickly-dissolving coastline has agreed to a multi-million dollar settlement, a potential watershed moment that could help the state combat land loss and lead similarly accused energy titans to follow suit.

Freeport-McMoRan is one of 98 oil and gas companies named in 42 lawsuits seeking reparations for environmental damage. Six years after the first suits were filed by several coastal Louisiana parishes, Freeport-McMoRan is the first to settle.

"I’m pleased that other oil companies are calling, talking resolution," said John Carmouche, the attorney representing the parishes. "I’ve been very vocal that the first companies to come, get the better deal. I think Freeport started something I think can be very great for Louisiana."

Freeport-McMoRan did not admit liability but has agreed to pay up to $100 million, much of which could be reimbursed by environmental credits, said Linda Hayes, the company’s vice president of communications.

“While we believe the plaintiffs’ theories of liability are unfounded, we recognize the importance of coastal restoration regardless of its cause,” Hayes said via email. “As a result, we decided to make an early investment in a creative solution rather than continue to engage in years of litigation.”

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