United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ST. BERNARD PARISH
ATLANTIC RICHFIELD COMPANY, ET AL.
ORDER AND REASONS
J. BARBIER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court are two motions to remand, one filed by Plaintiff
St. Bernard Parish (Rec. Doc. 16) and the other by
Intervenors, the State of Louisiana, through Jeff Landry,
Attorney General, and the State of Louisiana, through the
Department of Natural Resources (Rec. Doc. 18). Defendants
Atlantic Richfield Co., have filed multiple oppositions. At
the direction of the Court, the parties have filed
supplemental memoranda on the issue of federal question
jurisdiction. Having considered the motion and legal
memoranda, the record, and the applicable law, the Court
finds that the motions should be GRANTED.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
litigation derives from Defendants' alleged violation of
Louisiana's State and Local Coastal Resources Management
Act of 1978 and associated coastal regulations and local
ordinances, La. Rev. Stat. § 49:214.21 et seq.,
(collectively “CZM Laws”). (Rec. Doc. 1-2 at 1).
The Parish and Intervenors assert that Defendants' oil
and gas exploration, production, and transportation
operations violated state permitting laws by causing
substantial damage to land and waterbodies defined by the CZM
Laws. (Rec. Doc. 1-2 at 4, 8-9). Specifically, the Parish
alleges that Defendants constructed and used unlined earthen
waste pits located within the Parish's coastal zone.
(Rec. Doc. 1-2 at 11.) The Parish claims that the use of
these waste pits has had a direct and significant impact on
the coastal waters located within the Parish and therefore a
coastal use permit (“CUP”) was necessary for
each. Although the Parish alleges that the waste pits were
constructed after enactment of the CZM Act of 1978, it
asserts that any waste pits constructed before its enactment
would still require CUP applications. The Parish alleges that
Defendants violated the CZM Laws by not obtaining the
required CUPs. Ultimately, the Parish asserts that
Defendants' use of waste pits in the St. Bernard Parish
coastal zone and their failure to properly close the pits and
revitalize the sites have caused significant damage.
Parish filed this suit in state court and on November 10,
2016, Defendants removed it to this Court. In response, the
Parish and Intervenors filed the instant motions to remand.
In light of the Fifth's Circuit's ruling in Board
of Commissioners of Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection
Authority-East v. Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co., L.L.C.,
850 F.3d 714 (5th Cir. 2017), this Court instructed the
parties to brief whether federal question jurisdiction exists
over this case. The briefing is complete and the motions are
now before the Court.
defendant may remove a civil action filed in state court if a
federal court would have had original jurisdiction over the
action. See 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). The removing
party bears the burden of proving by a preponderance of the
evidence that federal jurisdiction exists at the time of
removal. DeAguilar v. Boeing Co., 47 F.3d 1404, 1408
(5th Cir. 1995). The jurisdictional facts supporting removal
are examined as of the time of removal. Gebbia v.
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 233 F.3d 880, 883 (5th Cir.
2000). Ambiguities are construed against removal and in favor
of remand, because removal statutes are to be strictly
construed. Manguno v. Prudential Prop. & Cas.
Ins., 276 F.3d 720, 723 (5th Cir. 2002).
action originally filed in state court may be removed to
federal court on the basis of federal question jurisdiction
if that matter is “founded on a claim or right arising
under the Constitution, treaties or laws of the United
States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b); see also 28
U.S.C. § 1331. In determining whether federal question
jurisdiction exists over a matter, courts apply the
“well-pleaded complaint rule, ” which considers
whether a federal question is presented on the face of a
plaintiff's properly pleaded complaint. Rivet v.
Regions Bank of La., 522 U.S. 470, 475 (1998) (citing
Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392
(1987)). Because the well-pleaded complaint rule focuses
solely on whether a plaintiff has “affirmatively
alleged” a federal claim, “potential defenses . .
. do not provide a basis for federal question
jurisdiction.” New Orleans & Gulf Coast Ry. Co.
v. Barrois, 533 F.3d 321, 328 (5th Cir. 2008) (citing
PCI Transp., Inc. v. Fort Worth & W. R.R.
Co., 418 F.3d 535, 543 (5th Cir. 2005)). In fact,
removal is not warranted pursuant to federal question
jurisdiction “on the basis of a federal defense . . .
even if the defense is anticipated in the plaintiff's
complaint, and even if both parties admit that the defense is
the only question truly at issue in the case.”
Franchise Tax Bd. of Cal. v. Constr. Laborers Vacation
Trust for So. Cal., 463 U.S. 1, 13 (1983).
the applicability of the well-pleaded complaint rule, a claim
which has origins in state law may still be found to arise
under federal law if it falls within a “special and
small category” of cases. Gunn v. Minton, 133
S.Ct. 1059, 1064 (2013) (citing Empire Healthchoice
Assurance, Inc. v. McVeigh, 547 U.S. 677, 699 (2006)).
The Supreme Court articulated the test for determining
whether a claim falls within this narrow category, finding
that federal question jurisdiction attaches to state law
(1) resolving a federal issue is necessary to resolution of
the state-law claim; (2) the federal issue is actually
disputed; (3) the federal issue is substantial; and (4)
federal jurisdiction will not disturb the balance of federal
and state judicial responsibilities.
Singh v. Duane Morris LLP, 538 F.3d 334, 338 (5th
Cir. 2008) (citing Grable & Sons Metal Products, Inc.
v. Darue Engineering & Manufacturing, 545 U.S. 308,
314 (2005)). However, the category of cases envisioned in
Grable is a “slim” one. Empire
Healthchoice Assurance, 547 U.S. at 701. Moreover, the
“mere presence” of a federal issue or the
necessity of interpreting federal law “does not
automatically confer federal-question jurisdiction.”
St. Bernard Port, Harbor & Terminal Dist. v. Violet
Dock Port, Inc., 809 F.Supp.2d 524, 536 (E.D. La. 2011)
(citing Merrell Dow Pharm. Inc. v. Thompson, 478
U.S. 804, 813 (1986)).
assert three separate grounds for removal. They argue that
the Parish's claims are subject to maritime jurisdiction
and OCSLA jurisdiction, and that the Parish's claims
raise federal questions. The first two alleged sources of
jurisdiction are nonstarters. This Court's jurisprudence
is clear that the Parish's claims do not create OCSLA
jurisdiction and, assuming they are maritime claims, would
not be removable solely on that ground.See, e.g.,
Parish of Plaquemines v. Total Petrochemical &
RefiningUSA, Inc., 64 F.Supp.3d 872, 899 (E.D.
La. 2014); Jefferson Parish v. Chevron U.S.A. Holdings,
Inc., No. 13-16738, 2015 WL 2229278 (E.D. La. May 12,
2015). Defendants also make a vague allegation that federal
question jurisdiction exists over the Parish's claims
because the state court petition “raises complex and
interrelated issues involving many areas addressed by federal
statutes and regulations.” (See Rec. Doc. 2 at
3.) This Court concurs with the multiple courts in this
district that have found such nebulous allegations failed to