For several years, the state of Louisiana has been faced with numerous battles between parishes and the oil and gas companies over the topic of climate and coastal erosion; now, one judge’s decision has moved one of these lawsuits back to state court.
Tyler Gray, president and general counsel of the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil & Gas Association, believes the forum shopping by plaintiffs within the legal system is a flawed strategy that will only end in more damages to the state’s business climate and residents.
“The ruling is another procedural step in the judicial process, which unfortunately takes time and resources away from what could be collaborative efforts working towards real solutions for our coast,” Gray told Louisiana Record. “As we’ve learned from the Levee Board lawsuit and many years of litigation involving this case, the solutions to securing our coast will not be found in the courtroom.”
According to ClimateLiabilityNews.org, Judge Martin L.C. Feldman recently decided that the Plaquemines Parish’s lawsuit against the oil and gas industry should be returned to state court rather than being heard in federal court. Based on the parish’s allegations, the oil and gas industry has violated the Louisiana State and Local Coastal Resources Management Act by failing to repair the wetlands they have disrupted following industry operations. Following Feldman’s announced decision, the oil and gas industry has already decided that they will appeal it, in the hopes of returning to federal court.
The situation as a whole is highly controversial, with some groups believing that this is a state matter that should be sorted within Louisiana jurisdiction, while others are fighting for a federal hearing, claiming that it has wider-spreading implications.
Contrary to Plaquemines Parish’s claim that the industry has done nothing to give back after their operations, Gray said that the oil and gas companies have been some of the most influential in terms of improving the state’s coastal conditions.
“Louisiana oil and natural gas companies recognize our working coast is an invaluable cultural, economic and environmental asset. For decades, our member companies have voluntarily invested millions of dollars in restoration and hurricane protection projects and spent countless hours advocating for major federal funding opportunities like GOMESA to help make our coastal communities safer and stronger,” Gray said.
As far as Gray is concerned, legal battles will only prolong the suffering of the state’s business community.
“Rather than pursuing flawed and divisive legal attacks against many of our top job creators, state and local leaders should be focused on working with our industry and our Congressional delegation to ensure that Washington continues to invest in and support Louisiana’s working coast,” Gray said.