BATON ROUGE – Attorney General Jeff Landry recently criticized the Vermilion Parish coastal lawsuit filed by 15th
Judicial District attorney Keith Stutes, whose suit accused 49 oil and gas
businesses for environmental contamination and coastal erosion created by
decades of drilling and production in Vermilion Parish.
Landry does not see the lawsuit as a
positive approach to boosting the economy, mainly because similar lawsuits previously
filed have not been effective--and some even had some negative results.
“It is disappointing to see the lawsuit filed today in Vermilion Parish – as we
have repeatedly conveyed to the coastal parishes that litigation beyond those
already filed in Cameron, Jefferson, and Plaquemines were counterintuitive,”
Landry said. “As I said in March, we cannot allow these differing, and
competing interests to push claims which collectively impact the public policy
for our coast and our entire state.”
Stutes responded that his job is to enforce the law.
Vermilion is one of 13 coastal parishes filing similar suits. At one point,
Governor John Bel Edwards mentioned the possibility of a global settlement, and Stutes decided
to file the suit so that Vermilion Parish was not left out of any
"It's really imperative that a stand be made or a point
be made," Stutes said. "Vermilion Parish must be involved in the resolution of those coastal
Landry argued that a better solution requires
balance and compromise and that the parishes will only suffer more with such a
“Again – we can balance the tremendous benefits of the oil and gas industry and
the ongoing coastal crisis,” Landry said. “But the creation of superfluous
litigation solely benefiting the attorneys involved does not serve that
purpose. Furthermore, creating a situation where multiple courts rule on the
same issues will result in inconsistencies, conflicts and confusion.”
Stutes argued there are more benefits to restoration
and what it will do for the regional economy compared to allowing the oil and
gas industry to continue eroding the coastlines.
“While we all recognize the tremendous impact oil and gas
activities have had on our local economy, every person who has ever fished,
hunted and enjoyed the natural beauty of Vermilion Parish is aware of the
environmental issues caused by oil and gas activities,” Stutes said.
Landry also announced that intervention of the lawsuit is necessary before more
damage is done.
“We intend to intervene in this lawsuit and any subsequent
ones to protect the interests of our state and its people in the most judicious
and economical manner,” Landry said.
The Louisiana Oil and Gas Association (LOGA) also agreed with Landry, arguing that the lawsuit is hurting the economy more
than helping it.
"This suit, along with the other filed in the other
parishes, is sending a loud and clear message to the oil and gas industries that
we no longer want you here," Don Briggs of LOGA said.
Landry has even gone as far as calling the current and
previous lawsuits in the other parishes as "coastal extortion."
reaction to the most recent suit filed by Stutes is not much different.