Legal observers say Louisiana has long been home to trial attorneys who seek to make a profit by pursuing battles with large settlements attached, and a recent tactic in Terrebonne Parish is being brought to light by Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch.
In a recent op-ed by Lana Venable, director of LLAW and published by Watchdog, Venable calls attention to a process in which the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources is appointing the parish district attorney to conduct damage assessments linked to oil and gas operations.
But as far as Venable is concerned, this tactic is more self-serving than it is a concern for the well-being of those who rely on the industry for the livelihood.
Marie Centanni, director of the Louisiana Free Enterprise Institute, is disheartened by this scheme and what it threatens to do.
“It’s heavy-handed on the part of a state agency to force a parish down a path towards further alienating a major job-creator, when both the citizens and their elected officials have made clear their intentions to work with the oil and gas industry – not against it,” Centanni told Louisiana Record.
Indeed, the parish officials have made their voices clear as both Terrebonne Parish President Gordon Dove and Lafourche Parish President Jimmy Cantrelle have put the brakes on their interest to pursue the litigation as they feel it unfairly jeopardizes the oil and gas industries — two massive players in the local economy.
Centanni also questions why the Department of Natural Resources, a group usually operated with science in mind, would look to lawyers to fight their battles.
“Why would an agency that should operate within scientific and regulatory boundaries outsource its duties to lawyers?” Centanni said. "This move throws science out the window and welcomes courthouse cronies to take over."
For the time-being, Terrebonne Parish’s energy industry looks to be in a safe position, as the local leadership is in opposition to the assessment, a decision that Centanni applauds.
“It’s the wrong move at a time when Terrebonne Parish and neighbors all along Louisiana’s oil and gas corridor are struggling to hang on to every last job the industry can provide,” Centanni said.