MORGAN CITY — A Louisiana state representative attributes the state's slow job recovery to its backlog of legacy lawsuits against the oil industry.
State Rep. Beryl Amedee (R-Gray) addressed the St. Mary Parish Chamber of Commerce legislative breakfast March 30, saying legacy lawsuits targeting the oil industry have put Louisiana at an economic disadvantage, according this article from St.MaryNow.com.
In these types of lawsuits, property owners attempt to reclaim damage done to their land by oil companies. These legacy lawsuits owe much of their recent growth to a 2003 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Corbello v. Iowa Production. The case made it possible for property owners to recover from oil companies the costs necessary to restore their property to its original condition, regardless of the value of the property.
Amedee told the Louisiana Record that although she believes lawsuits against the oil industry serve an important function when they can be shown to be directly responsible for obvious environmental damage, the current climate goes far beyond what is necessary. This includes damage that may not be fairly attributed to the oil industry.
"When you show me a picture of an oil drill and the grass around it is dead that is a pretty clear cut example of the industry causing environmental damage and needing to make restitution," she said. "But many of these lawsuits go beyond that. The plaintiffs are talking about claiming damages from everything from man made canals, to the traffic coming in and out, to land loss caused by erosion."
She added that many of the legacy lawsuits punish companies that are doing their best to limit the damage to the surrounding environment.
"When I speak with oil field company heads they are serious about taking care of the environment and they are serious about following the rules and even going above and beyond what is required," Amedee said. "Are they lying? I don't know. But it appears to me that they are doing their job."
Amedee said state and national agencies should also bear some of the responsibility for the environmental damage caused by these incidents, arguing that if state and federal agencies failed to intervene to stop the damage attributed to the oil industry, then they also failed in their roles.
"When a rule is broken it is the state's responsibility to enforce those regulations," she added. "We have the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency to handle these issues. There are already so many facets of the government that are involved in this issue they have to take some responsibility."
The result of these complications is a negative impact on the state's economy and its ability to attract oil related jobs according to Amedee.
"When the oil industry says it is reluctant to return to Louisiana because of these legacy lawsuits that bothers me," she said. "I see legacy lawsuits as a danger to people's ability to put food on the table."
She concluded that legacy suits against the oil industry were not the only reason for the state's sluggish job growth but were a contributing factor and one that state government can have direct impact upon.