- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 12, 2017

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A federal appeals court Wednesday dealt another defeat to a Louisiana flood board’s effort to make oil and gas companies pay for damage to coastal wetlands that help protect New Orleans from hurricanes.

The suit by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East sought to hold close to 90 companies accountable for billions of dollars’ worth of damage blamed on coastal drilling activity.

But a district judge dismissed the suit in 2015. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that decision in March. On Wednesday, the appeals court rejected a request for a re-hearing.

Environmentalists had hailed the suit as a means of holding the energy industry accountable.

Energy companies attacked it as an assault on a major Louisiana employer.

The federal district judge’s 2015 ruling held that federal and state law provided no avenue by which the board could bring the suit.

Attorneys for the flood board declined immediate comment Wednesday evening when asked whether they might take the case to the Supreme Court.

The suit says drilling activity, including the dredging of canals, contributed to the loss of wetlands that form a hurricane buffer for the New Orleans area. Without this natural barrier, the board had to devote more time and money to protecting and maintaining levees, the board said.

Some coastal parishes are pursuing coastal damage suits in state courts on different legal grounds. Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, has urged the energy companies to work toward a settlement. Industry leaders have resisted, saying the suits are meritless.

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