Fake news has been a major topic of discussion lately. While most of this debate has focused on national issues, it is important for informed citizens to differentiate fact from fiction when considering local and state issues as well. 

Take, for example, the letter written by environmental activist John Barry regarding the demise of the coastal lawsuit brought by the of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPAE), which included some “alternative facts.” 

In his May 25 letter, Barry misleadingly suggests that massive litigation and behind-the-scenes legal settlements are our only means of holding oil companies responsible for any damage their operations could have caused decades ago. That is simply not true. In fact, through the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources there is already a rigorous administrative process in place to ensure that every coastal use permit in the state operates in compliance with the Coastal Zone Management Act. Any violations that may have contributed to the erosion of our coast can and should be addressed by the department now. 

Barry also writes that industry doesn’t pay anything for coastal restoration, when, in reality, Louisiana oil and natural gas companies have been a strong economic partner and environmental steward of Louisiana’s working coast for more than a century. Today, the oil and natural gas industry is the state’s No. 1 private investor in public projects along the coast, and the royalties and taxes generated from production activities provide the largest stream of consistent funding the state has for restoring on the coast.

Despite these and other claims Barry has made in the past, the overreaching environmental lawsuits that have been brought by private contingency-fee lawyers on behalf of state and local agencies are neither necessary nor warranted. 

I applaud the federal court’s decision to dismiss the SLFPAE lawsuit and The Advocate editorial, which correctly pointed out that these misguided lawsuits are not a legitimate solution to saving our coast.

At a time when Louisiana faces so many environmental and economic challenges, state and local leaders should be focused on policies to create jobs, support economic growth and encourage, not hinder, more industry investments in long-term coastal sustainability.

Melissa Landry

executive director, Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch

Baton Rouge