The city of New Orleans' recent decision to partner with private plaintiffs' lawyers to file suit against the oil and gas industry continues an unnecessary trend of ineffective legal action against one of the state's largest employers and economic supporters. In a purported quest for money to fund coastal restoration projects, the suit improperly asserts oil and natural gas operators violated the terms of their state-approved and issued coastal use permits, alleging the supposed violations caused land loss.
Just weeks earlier, in a blatant example of government overreach, the governor's administration set a dangerous precedent in Terrebonne Parish, outsourcing state government control of environmental assessments to a local district attorney and a small group of well-connected trial lawyers who are mostly recognized for advertising on “crash cash” billboards up and down the bayou. The state apparently intends to use these environmental assessments — which will be produced by plaintiffs’ attorneys rather than government regulators — to set the stage for new litigation in Terrebonne.
Citizens and officials across the parish have stated time and time again they don't want to file suit against the energy industry, which has been a strong, stable partner for generations. The state’s heavy-handed approach completely ignores the expressed will of the people of Terrebonne and the authority of its local government.
Enough is enough.
Many years of unproductive litigation have already demonstrated that civil lawsuits are an inappropriate and ineffective way to regulate state-issued coastal use permits or generate revenue to fund Louisiana’s Coastal Master Plan.
The very first coastal lawsuit filed by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority in 2013 illustrates this point. After countless headlines, many years in court and millions of dollars in legal fees, the “Levee Board” suit was rejected multiple times and even described by one judge as "a collateral attack on an entire regulatory scheme.”
Similarly, these trial lawyer-invented “permit” lawsuits are just another attempt to undermine existing legal and regulatory processes and punish the energy industry for conducting business operations that did and continue to comply with federal and state rules and regulations. Enough is enough.
Together, Louisiana oil and natural gas companies support more than 260,000 jobs and contribute more than $2 billion in annual state taxes. These same companies also invest heavily in our coast. In fact, revenues from oil and gas operations already serve as a primary source of funding for hurricane protection and restoration projects that help make our communities safer and more resilient. Rather than pursuing flawed and divisive legal attacks against companies that support Louisiana’s economic and environmental resiliency, public officials should be focused on working with industry to continue moving our coast, our economy and our state forward.
president, Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association