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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Long Legal Fight Over Texaco Drilling Lease Takes a Twist

ERATH, La. — It began as a landlord-tenant dispute, Louisiana style. The tenant was Texaco; the landlord the Broussard family, heirs of a Cajun rancher, who claimed that Texaco’s operation of a gas plant on their property had left the land contaminated. The lawsuit, of a kind not all that rare in these industry-heavy parts, had dragged on so long that 13 of the heirs had died.

But it took a sudden and bitter turn in recent months, when another company — a company that, like Texaco, is a subsidiary of Chevron — sued to condemn most of the disputed land and expropriate it, arguing that it was acting in the national interest. The boundaries of the national interest are hard to draw in any place, but particularly so here in south Louisiana, where pipelines run under the bayous and refinery flares light the sky.

As old leases get examined and environmental concerns become more publicized, neighborly disputes between residents and those drilling on their land are bound to get more heated. And few are more complicated than the fight between Chevron and the Broussards.

Read the rest, headlining at the moment, at the NYTimes: