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Determining Climate Responsibility: Government Liability for Hurricane Katrina?

January 2019

Citation: ELR 10005

Author: Teresa Chan, Michael Burger, Vincent Colatriano, and John Echeverria

In St. Bernard Parish Government v. United States, Louisiana property owners argued that the U.S. government was liable under takings law for flood damage to their properties caused by Hurricane Katrina and other hurricanes. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit disagreed, however, noting that the government cannot be liable on a takings theory for inaction, and that the government action was not shown to have been the cause of the flooding. On September 6, 2018, ELI hosted an expert panel to explore this ruling and its potential implications for future litigation in a world of changing climate, extreme weather, and uncertain liability. This article presents a transcript of the discussion, which has been edited for style, clarity, and space considerations.

Teresa Chan (moderator) is a former Senior Attorney at the Environmental Law Institute. Michael Burger is Executive Director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School. Vincent Colatriano is a Partner at Cooper & Kirk, PLLC. John Echeverria is a Professor of Law at the Vermont Law School.

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