A whistleblower who was awarded $750,000 in a retaliation complaint against the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) intends to take his case to the Louisiana Supreme Court after an appeals court reversed the original ruling.
According to The Advocate, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals said whistleblower Dan Collins and his firm were not covered by the state’s environmental protection whistleblower law because they were independent contractors, not LDNR employees.
The DNR contracted Mr. Collins to provide land research services, which the state requires for environmental and industrial purposes. In the course of his work, Mr. Collins discovered that a lucrative, state-funded oil and gas project that benefited one family in Iberia Parish was being masked as a project to improve water quality.
In December 2015, an East Baton Rouge Parish jury sided with Mr. Collins, who sued the DNR alleging the agency retaliated against him for voicing concerns about the Bayou Postillion dredging project.
Mr. Collins claimed the environmentally sensitive Atchafalaya Basin was being dredged to create canals for the oil and gas industry to use. But he says instead of responding appropriately to his concerns, DNR officials barred him and his company, CPL & Associates, from doing any further work for the state.
In its ruling, the 1st Circuit Court found the NDR’s whistleblower protection law “is intended to protect employees from adversary action or other adverse action by employers for reporting possible environmental violations.”
A lawyer representing Mr. Collins said the Louisiana Supreme Court will be asked to reinstate the East Baton Rouge Parish jury’s original verdict.