BATON ROUGE – One of the state's main sources of private sector jobs and revenue is under legal attack that some have deemed unnecessary.
Over the past few years Louisiana's oil and gas production industry has faced increasing accusations and costly lawsuits over claims they have contributed to coastal erosion due to misuse of state-issued coastal-use permits.
Such litigation has resulted in strong push back from industry supporters claiming opportunistic trial lawyers are using the issue in an attempt to enrich themselves.
"This is about a handful of trial lawyers filing erroneous litigation based on assumptions, not facts, to fund Louisiana's $100 billion coastal restoration plan," Don Briggs, president of the Louisiana Oil & Gas Association, told the Louisiana Record. "The oil and gas industry operates under the stringent regulation of the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Corps of Engineers. Every coastal use permit is verified through LDNR to be deemed in compliance with the Coastal Zone Management Act."
LOGA'S member companies are at the heart of these coastal lawsuits.
"The oil and gas companies have followed each and every regulation and statute since the inception of the law," Briggs said.
When asked if these companies are being targeted in such lawsuits to be made an example, Briggs said the litigation is more about money.
"Not to make an example, but to fund a large scale problem that should include the state, the feds, the Corps and numerous other stakeholders at the table," Briggs said.
Don Briggs has been the president of LOGA since 1972 and has seen his share of legal issues in the state of Louisiana.
"Louisiana has progressively become one of the most 'litigious' states in the country," Briggs said. "Judicial tort reform is much needed. The oil and gas industry, because of perceived deep pockets, has become the target of a small group of self-serving trial lawyers."
The destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 has brought both regional and national attention to the Louisiana coastline and environment. Many paths have been taken, including many lawsuits, both in and out of the public eye, in an attempt to restore this well-known portion of the nation's coast.
Briggs said such lawsuits targeting oil producers are wrongheaded.
"Lawsuits in general concerning coastal restoration are not the correct path to finding a resolution," Briggs said. "As previously stated, a collaborative effort is needed."
In addition, Briggs said the state's oil companies are already engaged in restoring the environment and should be incentivized through continued partnership to do so.
"The oil and gas industry is the top investor in Louisiana's coast and environment," Briggs said. "The industry's continued presence and capital put into protecting the coast is a much more effective means to an end than litigation. Our goal is to restore Louisiana's coast. This is our home, and this goal is best accomplished as a partner, an investor, not from litigation."