BATON ROUGE – When lawsuits against oil and gas companies began flooding in from coastal Louisiana parishes after the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, the local oil and gas industry was concerned. But when Louisiana's attorney general moved to take over those cases, they felt it was time to make their voices heard.
"This is a bigger issue about minimizing excess litigation in our state and drawing attention to real solutions for our coastline that are viable and long-term," Don Briggs, president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association (LOGA) told the Louisiana Record. "Litigation against the oil and gas industry is shortsighted and truly damages our entire state economy - and does not fix the coastal problems."
At the end of April, LOGA released a joint statement with the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) and the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association (LMOGA). In it, they steadfastly deny the allegations of violating state-issued permits, the basis for the lawsuits against them. The groups became concerned when, after Attorney General Jeff Landry took over the 39 lawsuits they were facing, speculation began to arise that the groups would work with him to reach a settlement of the cases. Insisting they've done nothing wrong, the groups want it made clear that is not the case.
"This letter from LOGA, LMOGA and LABI was to send a clear message: No settlements are taking place," Briggs said. "The oil and gas industry will continue to work with the governor, the attorney general and the legislature to address the serious challenges facing our coast. It was important to provide the letter more broadly to ensure that everyone knew where we stood on this important issue."
The groups see these lawsuits not as attempts to protect the Louisiana coastline, but as parishes attempting to fund their budgets with litigation and opportunistic lawyers looking for big cases.
"Litigation only further stifles new development and growth for the industry and the economy. Lawsuits cannot and will not be a funding mechanism for state or local government budgets," Briggs said.
He added that the Department of Natural Resources has an administrative process for review of permit violations, and said that is the method these parishes should be using.
While the statement does make it clear that no settlements are taking place in these cases, the groups also stressed that they do want to work with the both the governments of Louisiana and the other industries that live off the coastline. The statement stresses that working together is the key to solving these issues, not lawsuits.
"Collaboration occurs when the Corps, the commercial seafood industry, maritime industry and others who utilize the coast and our waterways everyday are at the table with oil and gas," Briggs said.