Don Briggs Apr. 16, 2014, 4:38pm

It is no secret that the oil and gas industry is under attack by a small group of trial lawyers. Abusive suits have been filed against the oil and gas industry by Plaquemines and Jefferson Parish, by the South Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E), New Orleans, and over 350 legacy lawsuits have been filed all across the state. While all of these suits are currently aimed at oil and gas specifically, these suits threaten the entire business community in the state of Louisiana.

Several bills have been filed in this year’s legislative session that seek to clarify existing laws, prevent over-reach of power, and protect the oil and gas industry from such abusive suits. These bills cover topics ranging from coastal management issues like HB 862 by Rep. Robideaux, to legacy lawsuit reform bills such as SB 667 by Sen. Adley, to an attorney general bill, HB 799, regarding contingency fee usage by Rep. Bishop.

Most recently, Sen. Adley’s SB 553 passed off of the Senate floor; however, it is not quite time for a touchdown dance. This bill clarifies that the SLFPA-E is a state board and thus needs the approval of the governor regarding the hiring of outside counsel. This passage from the Senate is the first step in a series of bills that will slow down the onslaught of lawsuits that are camouflaged as coastal protection suits, but in actuality are merely money grabs.

Whether a coastal lawsuit such as the SLFPA-E has filed or a land-based legacy suit, the outcome is the same. Oil and gas operators are caught up in a litigious legal climate having to spend millions of dollars on legal fees and court costs when these dollars should be going back into the state’s economy for the production of our natural resources that benefit our entire nation.

As a reminder, the oil and gas industry provides over 300,000 jobs to the state of Louisiana through exploration and production, and the pipeline and refining sector. Over 30% of the nation’s oil and gas flows from Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico. While these are strong statistics today, they will only diminish should the legal climate continue to be unfriendly to the business community.

Plain and simple, these abusive suits are preventing economic development in the state of Louisiana. So while bills have been filed in the state legislature that will go through our system of government, the issue should not be a partisan topic. If you want jobs for our children and grandchildren, then you create a business climate that is friendly to the business community. The idea of one small group of trial lawyers tearing down an industry that has provided jobs to our state for over 100 years is simply asinine.

The issue will not completely be solved by a few pieces of legislation or by any one group advocating for the industry. The fight requires the entire business community to stand up for what is right for the future success of Louisiana.

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