The parish council in Plaquemines, LA, has withdrawn lawsuits filed against numerous oil and gas companies over alleged damages to coastal wetlands.
The council voted five to one Thursday to remove the parish from the legal proceedings against about a half-dozen companies. The lawsuit was filed in 2013, and opponents to the action mounted a campaign saying that it would harm the parish economy by chasing away oil and gas industry business and jobs. Several council members who previously supported the action voted against it Thursday.
The action was characterized as a "legacy lawsuit" as it sought compensation for alleged damage caused by the industry years ago. Louisiana oil and gas interests have fought for years to curtail legacy lawsuit activity in the state as they say it harms the industry and economy.
Louisiana Oil & Gas Association President Don Briggs praised the council's action.
"The vote today in Plaquemines Parish is excellent news for not only the companies involved in these suits, but the entire industry who has been facing this type of litigation for decades," he said. The removal of this suit signals a move in the right direction for the entire state. Louisiana has a litigious legal climate that is deterring new business. Today's decision indicates to our industry and to the workforce that Louisiana can be a good place to conduct operations."
While repeating a call for tort reform in the state legislature, Briggs said local governments can help to counter opportunistic litigation as well. "Local governments can do their part to reform our state too," he said. "We look forward to working with Plaquemines Parish in the coming years. They have always been an important parish for the oil and gas industry. This suit's removal allows those dollars that would have been spent on an unnecessary lawsuit to be spent on future economic development for our state."
Similar proceedings by Jefferson Parish and the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFP-E) are pending. In February the SLFP-E lawsuit was dismissed by a U.S. District Court judge (see Daily GPI, Feb. 17); however, the authority is appealing the dismissal.