Legacy lawsuit reform passes House committee minus amendment

By Louisiana Record reports | May 14, 2014

BATON ROUGE – A bill governing the way lawsuits addressing the cleanup of land polluted in oil drilling operations, also know as legacy lawsuit, has passed the Louisiana State House Committee on Civil Law and Procedure minus an amendment added in the Senate that limited the bill to future lawsuits only.

SB 667, sponsored by Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton and Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Sulphur, seeks to fix previous legislation meant to limit the potential liability for oil producers involving pollution on land where oil drilling and other energy production occurred.

The bill previously passed the Senate in a unanimous 37-0 vote. However, that version of the bill included an amendment that would not apply the legislation retroactively and only received a 9-3 vote in the committee. The removal of that language would allow the legislation to apply to about 300 current legacy lawsuits that are ongoing.

The intent of the bill is to restore laws passed in 2010 and 2012 that would allow a responsible party to admit liability for the cleanup and in concert with the Department of Natural Resources to develop a plan to remediate the land. It will also clarify the types of damages that may be recovered and provide attorneys fees to parties who receive dismissals, such as in cases where lawsuits that are brought without hard evidence of contamination.

The laws previously passed were the source of conflict within the judicial system and parts of which were overturned by the Louisiana Supreme Court.

Earlier this year, a compromise on legacy lawsuits was announced by Gov. Bobby Jindal between the state’s large landowners and oil lobbyists. However, it is unclear whether the removal of the amendment regarding retroactivity will have an effect on that compromise.

The bill is scheduled for floor debate in the House on May 15.

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