LC & Cameron Ports face off before 3rd Circuit

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) -It's a legal tug of war that attorneys for Sempra say is creating national, even international interest:  The fight between he Port of Lake Charles and West Cameron Port over who should rightfully own the land upon which the LNG company operates.

Those on all sides again found themselves before the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal.

The legal battle has been raging for several years now--can the Port of Lake Charles continue to own the property on which Cameron LNG, a subsidiary of Sempra, operates-- and collect rent that amounts to $65 million over twenty years.  Rent Lake Charles Port officials say they need to keep the channel deep and traffic moving.  Sempra's attorney told the appeal court he outcome of the case is if national, even international interest as the company seeks to protect its $1 billion investment in Cameron Parish.  Lake Charles interim port director Mike Dees agrees.  "The Calcasieu Ship Channel is responsible for about seven or eight per cent of the whole nation's energy. So, to the extent that we're impaired in maintaining and keeping the channel open, that threatens our national energy as a whole."

Plus Dees says companies like Sempra seeking to do business here need to know what to expect.  " They relied upon all the prior interpretations of law, all the statutes, all the lease documents, so that puts really a dagger of fear in any company's heart about coming to Southwest Louisiana."

The Lake Charles Port legally bought the land to place dredged material from the ship channel and while Cameron Port officials say they can use it for that, Cameron argues Lake Charles cannot use it to conduct port business in their territory.  Howard Romero is on the West Cameron Board."We feel pretty comfortable that the law is on our side and other than that we're going to leave it with the court judges."

Romero says they're entitled to the lease money from Sempra and need it. "We need this money to expand in our port, and to do some dredging that we need to do and also do some expansion for economic development, bring more jobs to Southwest Louisiana."

Last October a three judge panel heard arguments but did not render a decision.  So, all sides were called back before a five judge panel. It's expected to take at least several weeks before the third circuit issues a decision in the case.

Once it's ready the decision will be published on the appeal court's web site.

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