Mayhall Fondren Blaize

Oil & gas law suits center on coastal restoration in Louisiana

The oil and gas industry in Louisiana is seemingly always embroiled in litigation involving environmental issues that are being perpetually asserted and disputed. The situation in recent decades has intensified due to the aggressive participation of state and federal governmental interests. The oil & gas law battle garnering the most attention recently is the flap between the state's governor and its attorney general.

They are arguing over the degree to which the government should push or expand the litigation to obtain compensation for alleged damages to Louisiana's coastline. Governor Edwards is intent on suing the oil and gas companies to get funding toward repairing coastal degeneration. Attorney General Landry says that additional lawsuits at this time are unnecessary because four of them are already going forward. The Governor contends that Congress will not fund coastal restoration efforts if the state does not first aggressively pursue the oil industry.

Edwards will include the state in the four existing lawsuits and will encourage all coastal parishes to file suit. Landry, who is sympathetic to oil industry interests, contends that it will simply be a waste of money to incur more legal fees toward proving the same issue. Louisiana has a state coastal restoration master plan that will cost $50 billion, and the governor wants the industry to pay for its share of the project. Some observers believe that Edwards is acting to keep a tight control over the litigation so that he can control the funds that are eventually accumulated, and thus to also control how the funds are spent.

The governor's detractors point out that his own political cronies are slated to run the new oil & gas law litigation. The battle is now at a crossroads. Much may depend on the ability of all interested parties to sit down in amicable negotiations. The deterioration of the coast line is due to a mixture of man-made and natural causes. A fair negotiated resolution must equalize the vital environmental concerns with the need to preserve a healthy and economically viable industry presence in Louisiana.

Source: nola.com, "John Bel Edwards: Jeff Landry can't stop Louisiana from suing oil and gas industry", Julia O'Donoghue, Sept. 21, 2016

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