Representative Gordon E. Dove

BATON ROUGE - The chairman of the Louisiana House of Representatives Natural Resources committee has drafted a bill that would provide legal reform in the environmental remediation of old oilfields.

HB655, sponsored by Representative Gordon Dove (R-Houma), would authorize the secretary of the Department of Resources and the commissioner of conservation to order testing and remediation of oilfield sites suspected of contamination.

The bill would change existing law on mineral leases by expanding the role of Department of Natural Resources in the cleanup efforts by allowing officials more direct influence over past owners of the contaminated.

The current law passed in 2006 allows DNR oversight of environmental cleanup following lawsuits. The proposed bill would give officials power to order the site's past owners to clean up sites found to be dangerous to the environment.

"Legacy lawsuits" were recently the subject of an Louisiana State University study that found litigation from those cases cost the Louisiana economy an estimated $6.8 billion and around 30,000 jobs over the past eight years.

"How much more do we have to lose before this issue is resolved? At a time when our national economy is suffering and energy prices are skyrocketing, it's clear the status quo is not acceptable," said Melissa Landry, Executive Director of Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch.

Joe Harrison (R-Napoleonville) is sponsoring identical legislation under HB897.

Neil Abramson (D-New Orleans) has also sponsored legislation for this session that would reform legacy lawsuits by allowing past owners of the oilfield sites to admit to a lesser degree of liability in the contamination.

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