Parish district attorney discourages coastal lawsuits against oil and gas companies

By Kerry Goff | Dec 4, 2016

THIBODAUX — Lafourche Parish District Attorney Cam Morvant has claimed that groups are disseminating incorrect information about lawsuits targeting gas and oil companies, according to an article in the Daily Comet.

Morvant is specifically responding to Grow Louisiana Coalition's letter, which was sent to residents of coastal parishes informing them that if they did not file suit against the allegedly offending oil and gas companies for wetlands damage, the state would file suit on their behalf.

The Grow Louisiana Coalition flyers encouraged residents to contact local government leaders about lawsuits against the industry, according to the Daily Comet article. One line of the mailer claims that Baton Rouge lawyers want the district attorneys to bypass the parish councils and file suit.

“It’s not accurate,” Morvant said told the Daily Comet. “No one has ever approached me either verbally or in writing regarding the district attorney filing a lawsuit on behalf of the parish. Even if they would, I would not have the authority to do that without council approval.”

In Terrebonne Parish, either the parish president or the parish council can initiate a lawsuit. Terrebonne Parish President Gordy Dove has said he will not file suit against the oil and gas companies. He even hand delivered a letter to Gov. John Bel Edwards saying that. The previous parish council passed a resolution that it would not file suit either.

"Please realize the effect a lawsuit such as this will have on our local economy," the letter said. "First of all, we would be suing our corporate citizens ... A suit such as this at this time will jeopardize hundreds of new jobs in Terrebonne Parish."

Grow Louisiana Coalition Executive Director Marc Ehrhardt praised Morvant’s response to the issue in the Daily Comet article.

“We appreciate that the district attorney has clarified the situation and we’re glad he hasn’t been contacted (by state lawyers),” Ehrhardt said.

Erhardt said in the article that the mail outs should help clarify information.

“The goal of the mail outs is so that the citizens can gain a better understanding of what’s happening and what is coming out of Baton Rouge to our parishes to try and dictate what the parishes may or may not do,” Ehrhardt said. “We believe that the people who support the oil and natural gas industry should have an opportunity to speak out.”

Cameron, Jefferson, Plaquemines and Vermilion have filed such suits or are in the process of doing so. Edwards gave parishes that have not yet sued until the end of November to decide before the state proceeds on their behalf.

Meanwhile, Edwards has been accused of supporting such coastal land loss lawsuits in favor of some of his biggest campaign contributors.

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Organizations in this Story

Governor John Bel Edwards GROW Louisiana Coalition Lafourche Parish, LA

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