Freeport sets precedent, settles in O&G damage lawsuit
The first of the coastal oil field lawsuits has been settled, but what that means for Plaquemines Parish is yet to be seen.
The Advocate’s Tyler Bridges reports that Freeport-McMoRan has agreed to pay $100 million “in cash and environmental credits” over the next 20 years. Plaquemines and the other 11 parishes which are suing several oil and gas companies for damaging the coast still have to sign off on the deal, but Freeport, which contributed an estimated 4 percent of the O&G damage, will be off the hook for any future litigation.
Plaquemines officials were tight-lipped, or feigned ignorance, in the wake of Bridges’ report on how much they expected the parish to receive as money is doled out, but Freeport’s footprint remains significant. The company that provided the name for Port Sulphur, originally Freeport Sulphur, left a college campus-sized network of equipment and concrete structures in the water and a canal five miles long and more than 1,000 feet wide leading to the west bank when it abandoned its oil wells in the late 70s.
As to what the settlement portends for the remaining suits, officials hope the precedent will lead to a domino effect of settlements. However, those same officials acknowledge that Freeport had less to lose than other companies accused of far greater damage, so the will of those remaining companies to fight the suits is hard to gauge.
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