A bill to kill a mega-lawsuit against the oil and gas industry for damage to Louisiana's coastal wetlands passed the state's legislature on Friday and was on its way to Gov. Bobby Jindal for his signature.
SB 469 by state Sen. Bret Allain (R-Franklin) seeks to end the South Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East's (SLFPA-E) lawsuit against 97 oil and gas companies (see Daily GPI, Dec. 17, 2013; July 25, 2013). Jindal opposes the lawsuit and supports the bill to stop it.
"This bill also helps to create a more business-friendly atmosphere for companies that operate in the Louisiana coastal region," said Louisiana Oil & Gas Association Don Briggs. "The passage of this bill is a huge step in the right direction for Louisiana's business climate. Abusive lawsuits are not the answer, and the majority of the legislative body understands this evident by their vote to prevent this suit from moving forward."
The bill defines which governmental entities can bring legal claims related to management of Louisiana's coastal zones to entities designated in the Coastal Zone Management Act. The measure excludes levee boards retroactively, creating a legal argument to have the current levee board lawsuit thrown out. The bill is not expected to affect similar lawsuits for environmental damage filed by Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes against energy companies.
Filed in state district court in Orleans Parish last year, the lawsuit alleges about 100 pipeline/energy company defendants, large and small, compromised the integrity of Louisiana's coastal lands with activities tied to hundreds of wells and pipelines, heightening risks of hurricanes, storm surge and flooding in the region. The SLFPA-E operates and maintains the system of levees, floodgates, seawalls and jetties that protect the greater New Orleans region and asserts in the lawsuit that the defendants are obligated by law to restore the coastal land areas.
Earlier in the legislative session, lawmakers adopted a measure, also supported by Jindal, to bring relief to the energy industry from legacy environmental lawsuits (see Daily GPI, May 21).