Louisiana Record

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Attorney general disappointed with Vermillion Parish lawsuit

By Kerry Goff | Aug 4, 2016

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.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry | Attorney General's Office

“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 settlements.

"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 claims."

Landry argued that a better solution requires balance and compromise and that the parishes will only suffer more with such a lawsuit.

“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."

His reaction to the most recent suit filed by Stutes is not much different.

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