Kyle Barnett Apr. 12, 2014, 6:47am

BATON ROUGE – A bill that proponents say would have allowed for more state oversight of ‘legacy lawsuits’ has stalled in a state senate committee.

The legacy lawsuit issue involves landowners suing oil and gas producers for the past contamination of their land through energy exploration activities.

SB467 would have allowed for the Department of Natural Resources to step in to develop a cleanup plan for affected land if a party in litigation admits liability for pollution.

Similar language was passed in a 2012 bill as part of a multi-year drive to regulate such lawsuits, but supporters of those reforms say they are now being circumvented by district courts after a Louisiana State Supreme Court ruling on the matter.

“SB 467 was an important reform bill that sought to drive clean ups in legacy lawsuit cases," said Melissa Landry, executive director of Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch. "The Senate Natural Resources Committee voted 4-2 to involuntarily defer the bill, so the issue is dead for the remainder of this session.”

Landry said the bill’s inability to gain traction will delay necessary action on the legacy lawsuit issue.

“The impact is that, for at least the next year, judges and juries will be forced to work without the benefit of unbiased information from the Department of Natural Resources in these complex, highly scientific cases – and that’s unfortunate,” she said.

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