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Plaquemines Parish v. Palm Energy Offshore, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

May 26, 2015

PLAQUEMINES PARISH
v.
PALM ENERGY OFFSHORE, LLC, ET AL., Section

ORDER & REASONS

ELDON E. FALLON, District Judge.

Before the Court are motions to remand filed by Plaintiff Plaquemines Parish in three separate cases (No. 13-6709 Rec. Doc. 19; No. 13-6712 Rec. Doc. 16; 13-6732 Rec. Doc. 19). As the arguments in these motions are almost identical, the Court will dispose of these motions in one Order & Reasons and highlight any material distinctions. Thus, having read the parties' briefs, reviewed the applicable law, and heard oral argument, the Court now issues this Order & Reasons.

I. BACKGROUND

The Parish of Plaquemines ("the Parish") filed suit on its own behalf and on behalf of the State of Louisiana against many different defendants. The Parish relies solely on a body of Louisiana state law called the State and Local Coastal Resources Management Act of 1978, La. R.S. § 49:214.21, et seq., ("the CZM Laws" or "SLCRMA"), along with the state and local regulations, guidelines, ordinances, and orders promulgated thereunder. The CZM Laws regulate certain "uses" within the Coastal Zone of Louisiana through a permitting system. See La. R.S. § 49:214.30.

The CZM Laws prohibit anyone from engaging in a "use" without first applying for and receiving a coastal use permit. A "use" is any activity within the Coastal Zone which has a direct and significant impact on coastal waters. La. R.S. § 49:214.23(13). The CZM Laws further divide "uses" within the Coastal Zone into uses of state concern and uses of local concern. La. R.S. § 49:214.25(A). The State issues permits relating to "uses of state concern" in the Coastal Zone, and local governments with "approved programs" issue permits for "uses of local concern."

Generally, the Parish alleges that certain of Defendants' oil and gas exploration, production, and transportation operations associated with the development of the Coquille Bay, Delta Duck Club, Grand Bay, Main Pass Block 47, Main Pass Block 69, Raphael Pass, and Romere Pass Oil & Gas Fields in Plaquemines Parish were conducted in violation of the CZM Laws, and that these activities caused substantial damage to land and waterbodies located in the Coastal Zone within Plaquemines Parish. The term "Operational Area" is used throughout the Petition to describe the geographic extent of the area within which the complained-of operations and activities at issue in this action occurred. The Operational Area for this action comprises the geographic regions identified on the maps contained in Exhibit B to the Petition.

The Parish seeks all damages and remedies appropriate under the CZM Laws, including but not limited to, restoration and remediation costs; actual restoration of disturbed areas to their original condition; costs necessary to clear, revegetate, detoxify and otherwise restore the affected portions of the Plaquemines Parish Coastal Zone as near as practicable to its original condition; declaratory relief; litigation costs and expenses and attorneys' fees.

II. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The Parish originally filed these three actions, and a number of others, in state court. The Parish's well-pleaded complaint sought relief only under the CZM Laws, disavowing at great length any other type of claim, cause of action, or legal theory potentially cognizable on the facts alleged, including any that could form the basis for jurisdiction in a federal court.

Defendants nonetheless removed all these actions to the Eastern District of Louisiana alleging four bases for original jurisdiction in federal court: (1) diversity jurisdiction; (2) Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act; (3) general maritime law; (4) federal question (federal enclave). Once in federal court, the cases were never consolidated and were spread out among the district judges. These cases totaled twenty-eight separate actions.

The Parish moved to remand the cases, and the Judges all stayed proceedings while Judge Zainey, who had the lowest numbered docketed case, Plaquemines Parish v. Total et al., 13-6693, ruled on the motion to remand. On December 1, 2014, Judge Zainey granted remand, finding no basis for federal jurisdiction. In the three cases before this Section of the Court, the parties jointly moved for a status conference to address a briefing schedule regarding remand. The parties noted that they intended to offer several case-specific expert materials in connection with certain arguments, and to address Judge Zainey's ruling in Total. The Court issued a briefing schedule and picked a date to hear oral argument on the motions.

Prior to oral argument, Judge Africk and Judge Lemelle both granted the motions to remand in their respective cases, bringing the total number of Parish cases remanded to state court to ten (10). Judge Africk followed Judge Zainey's reasoning in Total when he remanded Plaquemines Parish v. Rozel Operating Company, et al ., along with two other cases, back to state court. Judge Lemelle followed suit, incorporating both opinions when he remanded Jefferson parish v. Anadarok E&P Onshore LLC, et al. and three other cases back to state court. Since oral argument, Judge Feldman, Judge Barbier, and Judge Morgan all remanded their respective cases. As noted by Judge Africk, the Court recognizes the following:

The Court again notes that it does not write on a blank canvas with these issues. The Court is persuaded by the thoughtful reasoning in Total, and sees little benefit in rehashing arguments that have been thoroughly aired and addressed. Accordingly, the Court will address the parties' arguments only to the extent that they raise arguments not briefed in that case.

Plaquemines Parish v. Rozel Operating Company, et al ., CIV. A. No. 13-6722, 2015 WL 403791, at * 2 (E.D. La. Jan. 29, 2015). With this in mind, the ...


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