Aug. 13, 2013 10:57

A New Orleans-area levee authority's lawsuit against dozens of oil and gas companies was transferred Tuesday from state to federal court at the request of one of the companies, but the move may be temporary.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A New Orleans-area levee authority's lawsuit against dozens of oil and gas companies was transferred Tuesday from state to federal court at the request of one of the companies, but the move may be temporary.

In a court filing, attorneys for Chevron U.S.A. Inc. argue that the suit belongs in federal court because they say federal laws govern many of its claims.

The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East's board of commissioners filed the suit in Orleans Parish Civil District Court on July 24. The board's lawyers argue the case should be decided in state court.

The suit alleges that the oil and gas industry has cost Louisiana hundreds of thousands acres of coastal land that serve as a natural buffer against flooding from hurricanes. Corrosive saltwater from a network of oil and gas access and pipeline canals has killed vegetation and swept away vast amounts of soil, the suit claims.

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt, who ultimately could decide where it belongs.

Industry leaders and Gov. Bobby Jindal were highly critical of the lawsuit. Jindal, who called for the lawsuit to be withdrawn, questioned the legality of the board's contract with its lawyers and referred to the suit as a "trial lawyer windfall."

About 100 companies are named as defendants in the lawsuit, including Apache Corp., BP America Production Co., ConocoPhillips Co., Exxon Mobil Corp., Shell Oil Co. and The Pickens Co. Inc.

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