That takes nerve! Texas Brine challenges La’s tepid sinkhole response


Apparently, Big Oil, Big Gas, and their industrial cronies are used to getting everything exactly their was in the great state of Louisiana. I’m talking about the latest appalling news to come out of Bayou Corne, the small bayou community west of New Orleans that has been literally torn apart by a massive, manmade sinkhole.

If you’ve been following the saga of the Texas Brine Co., state regulators and some 150 families who’ve been forced to evacuate their homes from the hot swampy summer right past Christmas and now into 2013, you know that Louisiana has not exactly resembled the LSU Tiger in its level of aggressiveness. Indeed, Texas Brine Co. — the out-of-state firm that had harvested brine from the massive salt cavern underneath Bayou Corne for years — had warned Louisiana’s toothless Department of Environmental Quality back in early 2011, as it was completing its work, that there could be structural problems.

Despite that, officials from DEQ and the state’s hodgepodge of generally ineffective bureaucracies — along with Texas Brine Co. itself — played dumb in the summer of 2012 as the earth begin to rumble underneath the Louisiana bayou, as gases bubbled up in swampy wetlands and as foul odors overcame the tiny town. Then came the sinkhole that has continued to expand, swallowing earth and giant trees as it grows.

Now, in a classic case of locking the barn door after all the animals have escaped, state environmental officials have taking a tougher stance toward imposing financial penalties on Texas Brine and mandating — after a crisis that has gone on for five months with no end in sight — that the firm speed up its efforts to fix the problem.

The result: The Texas Brine Co. has suddenly turned into the Texas Whine Co.:

Texas Brine Co. LLC has asked state District Court in Baton Rouge to permanently block the Louisiana Office of Conservation’s latest directives compelling new investigations into the underground effects of an evolving, 8.5-acre sinkhole in northern Assumption Parish.

The Houston company challenged in court the underlying emergency and factual basis for the Dec. 7 directives and alleged an administrative hearing should have first been held by Louisiana Conservation Commissioner James Welsh.

Filed Dec. 28 in 19th Judicial District Court in East Baton Rouge Parish, the six-page suit asserts the state’s move ignores “more reasonable, scientifically sound and safer methods for accomplishing the goals” identified in Welsh’s order.

The state Office of Conservation insists that the new exploration is necessary because this is an emergency, because the sinkhole continues to grow, methane is continue to rise from the ground, and because Texas Brine does not seem to have a good grip on what exactly is taking place underneath the earth. In this case, although it may be late in the game, state regulators are finally getting this part right.

Instead, what Texas Brine continues to act the same way that got Bayou Corne into this mess in the first place. The company is trying to do whatever will cost the company the fewest dollars, with no thought whatsoever to the health and safety of Louisiana residents. Shame on them! Even for a company whose conduct has been reckless from Day One, this takes some nerve. Hopefully, the legal system will swat down this latest effort to evade corporate responsibility.

To read more about about Texas Brine Co. taking state regulators to court, please read:

© Smith Stag, LLC 2012 – All Rights Reserved

1 comment

Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
Cooper Law Firm

Follow Us

© Stuart H Smith, LLC
Share This