Your paper should consider screening guest commentaries a little more carefully for truth and accuracy before publishing them. For instance, the commentary you published on Sept. 14 from the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry is complete, self-serving garbage.
LABI’s commentary cites an “ongoing problem of ‘legacy’ lawsuits, where plaintiffs seek millions of dollars from oil and gas companies for alleged environmental damage.” According to LABI, “in these cases, plaintiffs are not required to prove specific damages by companies.”
That statement is false.
The truth is, landowners in these cases must prove that oil and gas companies have wrongfully damaged their land in specific ways and in specific locations. That’s what these cases are all about. How do they prove it? Photographs. Lab tests. State agency reports. Oil and gas company internal documents. This evidence has to be strong enough to convince 12 jurors, three appellate judges and four Supreme Court judges that a company has wrongfully damaged the land and should pay for it.
LABI’s commentary also makes the extremely misleading claim that plaintiffs “are not required to spend settlement dollars on actual cleanups” in legacy cases — implying that these cases are all about money and not about taking care of the land.
But the law in Louisiana is clear: In legacy cases, no settlement can occur, and certainly no settlement funds can change hands, until the defendant submits a plan to clean up the property and the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources approves that plan. Oil and gas companies fought for that law. A number of trial lawyers also support that law. I support it.
For decades, oil and gas companies often broke the law and contaminated the land in Louisiana, and then many of them left for Houston. Now the big boys who fund LABI — including Shell, Exxon, Chevron and BP — are unhappy that some Louisiana landowners have taken them to trial and won. These oil and gas companies are trying to rig Louisiana’s system so they won’t have to face our state’s landowners in court anymore, and LABI is trying to help them do it.
Editors, you should not let your readers be fooled into believing that oil and gas companies are being treated unfairly in Louisiana courts. They are not. In our state, we have the right to take anyone to court who wrongfully damages our property. We should not have to give up that right now, simply because oil and gas companies made a mess and don’t want to clean it up.
Gladstone N. Jones, III