State shuffling dollars to pay for sinkhole


BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The state Department of Natural Resources borrowed $8 million from the state treasury to meet the day-to-day expenses of Bayou Corne.

Now, that money is almost gone.

The Advocate reports ( ) DNR's biggest expense is paying CB&I to help with the science behind a 25-acre sinkhole in northern Assumption Parish.

The agency also is spending dollars on supplies, travel and personnel. DNR's expenditures on Sept. 18, roughly two months after Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols signed the request for a seed of federal funds, already clocked in at $7.4 million.

Across state government, dollars are being shifted to pay for sinkhole-related expenses.

The Jindal administration banks on recouping the money through litigation against Texas Brine Co. and a Dallas subsidiary of oil giant Occidental Petroleum. To date, the state's sinkhole-related expenses are approaching $10 million.

At issue: Who is to blame for the collapse of a Texas Brine well that punched a giant hole in the ground felling trees, releasing gas and threatening hundreds of homes. A suit was filed in August on behalf of all state agencies involved in the response to the sinkhole.

Meanwhile, Texas Brine launched its own legal battle against the Occidental subsidiary and three other companies.

Below Louisiana's surface are towers of salt deposits rising from what used to be an ocean floor. Oil and gas companies mine into the salt to store butane and natural gas or to extract brine for industrial uses.

The state contends that Texas Brine and Occidental mined the Napoleonville Dome to the point that it became unstable, triggering a collapse that sucked in the earth and forced Bayou Corne-area residents to evacuate their homes.

The litigation will unfold in 23rd Judicial District.


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