Abandoned oil and gas wells in Louisiana's 14 coastal parishes

Louisiana's 14 coastal parishes have approximately 27,400 abandoned gas wells on land, according to a 2018 study from LSU scientist Eugene Turner. 

Plaintiffs’ attorneys behind the coastal lawsuits are pulling out all the stops in an attempt to derail Senate Bill 359, which seeks to clarify and reaffirm state government’s role in managing Louisiana’s coastal resources.

First, they attacked the committee process, claiming a lack of fairness, even though they were given far more time to present testimony than anyone else on the agenda. Then they went after “Big Oil,” conveniently omitting that the vast majority of energy producers in Louisiana they are suing are small and independent operators, who help support more than 26,000 high paying jobs and $2 billion in tax revenue. Now, it seems they are attempting to smear anyone and everyone who does not support the pro-lawsuit, anti-jobs agenda.

As this proposed bill continues to make its way through the Legislature, I hope that future debate on SB359 will be focused on the facts. Half-truths and unfounded personal attacks are unproductive, and they will not erode the overwhelming demand for common-sense reforms coming from citizens across the state.

SB359 clarifies and reaffirms that the state is solely responsible for permitting and enforcing “uses of state concern” across the coastal zone — a term that is expressly defined in the statute, which includes all oil and gas activity. Local governments do not have the staff, resources or scientific expertise necessary to properly regulate or enforce oil and gas operations across the coast, which is why the statute assigned that duty and responsibility to the state 40 years ago.

Until these lawsuits were filed in 2013, local governments never attempted to assert any authority over “uses of state concern.” Now the unprecedented litigation filed by plaintiffs’ attorneys on behalf of a few select parishes threatens to undermine decades of work by lawmakers at every level of government to establish a uniform, statewide approach to Louisiana’s coast.

Contrary to the oppositions’ claims (some of which have been reinforced by coverage in this newspaper), this bill does not “kill” the coastal lawsuits or give anyone immunity. Under SB359, the parishes will be removed from the litigation and existing claims would move forward with the state in its proper role.

This streamlined, state-led approach to the coastal suits will ensure that 100% of any funds recovered under Louisiana’s coastal program will be spent directly on coastal restoration, wetlands mitigation and hurricane protection, as the Legislature intended.

BOB HENSGENS

state senator

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