LA - US Supreme Court denies request by oil firms to halt coastal erosion suit
The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday turned down a request by BP, Shell and Hilcorp to halt a lawsuit filed by Cameron Parish over similar wetlands disruption caused by those companies and to transfer the case to another location. The trial in their case is now scheduled to begin on Nov. 27.
The U.S. Supreme Court has denied a request by BP, Shell and Hilcorp oil companies to block the start of a state court lawsuit filed by Cameron Parish seeking as much as $7 billion in compensation for coastal erosion damages.
The Cameron lawsuit is one of more than 40 filed by Louisiana parishes against major oil companies over coastal damage. It is the first expected to go to trial.
BP America Production Company, Hilcorp Energy Company and Shell Oil Company had argued that jurors chosen from the 4,000 Cameron Parish residents eligible to serve would have "a substantial personal and financial interest in rendering a verdict for their home parish," which only has annual tax revenues of $20 million.
There was no explanation given by the Supreme Court for its decision issued Tuesday to deny the request to stay the trial and require that it be moved to another location.
The decision follows earlier actions in which the state judge hearing the case denied the companies’ request to move the trial to another parish, and the upholding of that decision by an appeals court and the Louisiana Supreme Court.
The trial remains scheduled to begin on Nov. 27 in the 38th Judicial District Court in Cameron.
“We do not believe litigation is the answer to the challenge of coastal erosion in Louisiana. It risks delaying collaborative action, misdirecting resources and inhibiting cross-sector work," Shell said a statement Wednesday.
“This ruling does not change our long-standing commitment to work with coastal communities along Louisiana’s coast. We will continue to defend against this unproductive litigation while supporting collaborative efforts on coastal protection and restoration."
The latest legal request follows a series of attempts by dozens of oil companies to move all the suits to federal courts, where they would have to be tried under federal laws that the oil companies felt would be more favorable to them. All of those challenges were rejected, ending with a February decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to decline to hear additional appeals on the court-change question.