VERMILION — The battle between energy and environment is at the heart of a lawsuit filed recently against 49 oil and gas companies operating along the Louisiana coast.
Keith Stutes, attorney for the 15th District of Louisiana, is suing the companies for damage caused along the Vermilion Coast. The suit claims that the companies are in violation of the Coastal Zone Management Law of 1978 and that their actions have caused substantial damages to coastal areas.
Companies named in the suit include major entities such as ConocoPhillips, Exxon-Mobil, Freeport-McMoran, Hess and Shell.
“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 in a statement.
The companies, through the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, contend that they are complying with all relevant laws, and the lawsuit threatens to take jobs away from the Louisiana coast.
Association President Don Briggs told the Louisiana Record that there is already a monitoring system in place to keep companies in check.
“Through the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, there is already a rigorous administrative process in place to ensure that each and every coastal use permit in the state is in compliance with the Coastal Zone Management Act,” Briggs said.
Briggs is calling on Vermilion residents to stand up to the suit and protect jobs in their area.
“Vermilion Parish residents should stand up, and tell the DA and his trial lawyer friends that they oppose these lawsuits,” Briggs said.
Stutes is also encouraging residents to consider the impacts drilling and other activities have on their everyday lives.
“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.
Similar lawsuits have been filed in other coastal area including Cameron, Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes. Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry is stepping in to try to have the suits withdrawn.
“We cannot allow these differing and competing interests to push claims, which collectively impact the public policy for our coast and our entire state,” Landry said in a statement.
Briggs said he is not optimistic that the two sides will reach a compromise any time soon.
“Any issues or concerns regarding permit compliance can be addressed through the administrative review process without the excessive delays and exorbitant legal costs that come along with litigation,” Briggs said. "There is nothing to compromise about.”