Safeland hires Becnel in tank farm suit

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 22, 2008


Editor and Publisher

GARYVILLE – Safeland Storage LLC, the company which has plans to build a tank farm in the Garyville/Mt. Airy area, has hired high-powered local attorney Daniel Becnel Jr. to defend itself in the lawsuit filed against the group.

Safeland had recently gotten final approval from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to begin construction on the 400-acre tank farm, that was to start with Phase I, which would have included 27 tanks.

But just as work was about to commence, a lawsuit was filed by Garyville attorney Geri Baloney on behalf of Save Our Neighborhood (SON), which has fought against the tank farm from the beginning.

Save Our Neighborhood, a local group of less than 50 people, has held local public meetings, and attended St. John Parish Council meetings, all in an attempt to halt the tank farm from being built.

However once DEQ permits were approved, Save Our Neighborhood apparently decided to take the matter into the courts with its lawsuit.

Becnel, known nationally for his success in major class action lawsuits, said that he understood very clearly why Safeland wanted to hire him.

“They wanted the best lawyer in town, that’s why they asked me to get involved,”

(See SAFELAND, page 2A)

 he said. “There is no basis for this lawsuit against Safeland, and their suit is only a delay tactic.”

Becnel said he plans to file a motion in court where SON has to prove they have the security to cover the court costs, should they lose.

“I hope they have some deep pockets, because this thing will get very costly for them if they want to proceed,” he said. “They better dismiss this suit before I get started since I hate to see local people get involved in something like this.”

Becnel explained that the motion for security for costs is simply a way the court orders an individual or group to prove they have the money to pay off in a suit, should they lose.

As for Baloney, she didn’t seem to waver when hearing of the planned tactic from Becnel.

“Obviously there is an economic impact to any group which decides to file a lawsuit, but in this case, Mr. Becnel is just using bully, scare tactics,” she said. “We are going to proceed as we have been doing already.”

Since the lawsuit was filed, Safeland halted all operations on their property. Baloney said they are seeking a court injunction which would officially force all work to stop.

However she said that the SON group is “always open to communication” should Safeland want to discuss the case, and the SON demands.

Danny Guidry, spokesman for Safeland Storage, said that his group has done all it can from the beginning to show what a good neighbor they wanted to be to Garyville and Mt. Airy residents.

He pointed to the fire truck which would be donated to the Garyville department, a commitment to improve recreational facilities, offering more high paying jobs, and even their interest to help get a Community Center built.

“All along we have tried to offer a lot of things we will do to help this community out, but now with the lawsuit they filed, we have been forced to protect our rights. We are honored to have an attorney like Mr. Becnel, with the reputation he has. But we just want this to come to a quick resolution so we can get on with our business,” he said.

Becnel emphasized what he sees as a lack of any strong case from the Save Our Neighborhood group.

“All the permits were obtained properly. They held public meetings and have worked all along with the people in Garyville and Mt. Airy to give a lot back. Everything was done properly in getting ready to build this tank farm, and there is just no basis for the suit,” he added. “But now that they are costing Safeland money every day they can’t proceed, somebody is going to have to pay for that.”