It’s been 200 days since a sinkhole forced residents of Bayou Corne to evacuate their homes.
Homeowners are fed up. Some testified at a Joint Committee meeting Tuesday at the Capitol. Some are calling for Texas Brine – the company responsible for the failed salt-mining cavern that allegedly caused the sinkhole – to buy out their properties.
State lawmakers have an eye on legislation aiming to amend constituents' problems and assure Louisianians won't meet the same situation in the future.
When confronted with the option of buying-out homes, officials from Texas Brine said a settlement would detract from clean-up efforts at the site. State Senator Troy Brown suggested to Bruce Martin of Texas Brine that his company might want to learn to multitask. This was their exchange:
Brown: Would you say that you all have the financial means with your insurance to buy these people out?
Brown: You want to give us some numbers on that? As far as your coverage?
Martin: I think our coverage is, as far as pollution liability, in the $10-15 million range, and our general liability is in the $200 million range.
The collapse of Texas Brine’s salt mining cavern is unprecedented – that means there aren’t any laws on the books prescribing how to deal with its consequences.
Some legislators suggested taking another look at the permitting process. Senator JP Morrell wants to start preparing for future mishaps by placing higher fines on companies that are responsible for damaging the environment and putting residents at risk.
The Department of Natural Resources only has the authority to fine a company $5,000 a day. A representative from DNR agreed when Morrell asked, "If the cost of complying is higher than the cost of the fine, doesn’t that disincentivize them to comply?"
Residents may not get any conclusive answers until the legislative session that starts in April. In the meantime, the joint committee will gather more testimony at a meeting at the Capitol on March 18th.