Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal says a Texas company blamed for the sinkhole that formed after the collapse of an underground salt cavern has agreed to provide settlement offers, which include buyouts, to the residents of the Bayou Corne community in Assumption Parish who were forced to evacuate the area as a result of the massive sinkhole.
Houston-based Texas Brine mined brine from the salt cavern and piped it to nearby petrochemical facilities. Many of the more than 350 residents forced to evacuate have been away from their homes since August 2012.
In mid-February 2013 the sinkhole was reported to have grown to an estimated 7,500 square feet. Area residents say it has reduced property values and caused insurance companies to cancel their policies.
Jindal joined local officials and legislators from Assumption Parish at a meeting with Texas Brine officials on March 13, after which the governor announced the agreement.
“More than 350 lives have been uprooted by the Bayou Corne sinkhole. For months, our administration has been pressuring Texas Brine to step up to the plate and do the right thing for the residents of Bayou Corne. Texas Brine is responsible for the sinkhole, and we’ve remained committed to holding them accountable,” Jindal said in the announcement.
The Associated Press reported that company officials, including president Ted Grabowski, left the meeting without speaking to the media. The company issued a statement in which Grabowski said Texas Brine would meet with U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey about settlement offers. Zainey is overseeing the lawsuits that have been filed against Texas Brine in federal court, according to the AP.
State officials are concerned about the stability of a second Texas Brine salt dome cavern in the area, as well.
“Regarding the concerns with the second Texas Brine salt dome cavern – according to the Department of Natural Resources, there are no data at this time to suggest a failure is occurring or that a failure is imminent. But, we are not taking anything for granted,” Jindal said.
The state has billed Texas Brine more than $3.5 million and incurred a total cost of nearly $8 million for sinkhole response efforts, Jindal said, but it has not received any reimbursement.