PLAQUEMINES PARISH — The executive directors of two pro-industry groups, the Grow Louisiana Commission (GLAC) and the Louisiana Oil & Gas Association (LOGA), celebrated the Plaquemines Parish Council’s 5-to-1 vote on Thursday to kill a lawsuit against 86 oil and gas companies.
“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," Don Briggs, president of LOGA, said in a press release.
The suit, started by the previous parish council, was filed in 2013 and signed by Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser. The council then faced backlash from oil and gas companies, as well as parish citizens worried that the suit would harmfully impact crucial oil and gas jobs. Nungesser himself later turned against the suit.
“We are pleased Plaquemines Parish is standing up for its current and future industry workers today," GLAC Executive Director Marc Ehrhardt said in a separate press release following the vote.
The resolution that ended the lawsuit was sponsored by Councilman Charlie Burt and supported by fellow council members, Nicole Smith Williams, Kirk Lepine, Jeff Edgecombe and Irvin Juneau. Despite having personal connections to gas companies, Williams and Juneau did not abstain from voting to kill the suit.
Councilmen Beau Black and John Barthelemy abstained. Council President Benny Rousselle, the main supporter of the suit, was out of town. Audrey Trufant-Salvant was the only council member to vote to maintain the suit.
Briggs said the issue comes back to a hot topic in Louisiana’s upcoming election – tort reform. He stated that the council’s decision shows the state’s much-needed legal reform can be addressed by all levels of the government.
“Today’s decision denotes that [tort reform] doesn’t always have to be at the legislative level," Briggs said. "Local governments can do their part to reform our state too. 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.”
Ehrhardt mirrored Brigg’s concern about the frivolity of what he called an “opportunistic” lawsuit.
“Opportunistic lawsuits filed against the industry only bring harm to those involved, jeopardizing jobs and economic development, while benefiting Baton Rouge lawyers seeking to make millions in fees," Erhardt said. "These lawsuits would have created economic waste and burdened Plaquemines Parish with nothing but division, distraction and a drain on parish resources."
The oil and gas industry accounts for 1 in every 5 jobs in the parish and provides millions of dollars in tax revenue.
“We must work together with our most important economic drivers, rather than fighting against them,” Ehrhardt said.