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Houston company disputes fines for Louisiana sinkhole

A Houston company is challenging fines charged by Louisiana's Office of Conservation over environmental and safety issues stemming from a sinkhole that appeared over five months ago. Two municipal organizations also wish to be reimbursed for the costs of dealing with the sinkhole emergency. Lawyers for the Houston company's business litigation case are working with local officials to agree on the monetary amount they're responsible for.

The sinkhole is believed to have started at the site of an abandoned cavern once controlled by the company and now encompasses 8.5 acres. The surrounding communities face the possibility of dangerous methane gas emissions. The company, Texas Brine, has been charged with the tasks of building a containment system around the sinkhole and installing home methane detectors and ventilation systems.

Fines were levied against Texas Brine for not meeting the state's deadlines to take care of the numerous problems resulting from the sinkhole. The corporate dispute over the fines began after Texas Brine complained that the time allotted to pay them was too short. Since December, Texas Brine has already paid $100,000 in fines and is disputing an additional $160,000.

Part of the company's reasoning behind the business dispute is that it's a time-consuming process to gain the permits for the swampland containment system around the sinkhole as well as landowner access. Texas Brine's attorneys are optimistic they can reach an agreement with the local parish over costs and the time required to correct these problems.

Source: The Advocate, "Texas Brine fights fines," David J. Mitchell, Jan. 5, 2013

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