Louisiana Record

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Political science professor says parish lawsuits against oil companies could impact gubernatorial race

Campaigns & Elections

By Sarah Downey | Aug 6, 2019

Aerial shot of Louisiana coastline | shutterstock.com

Challengers to Gov. John Bel Edwards are pointing to his support of parishes suing oil companies over allegations of coastal erosion, making the potential negative economic impact from that court action a key campaign issue.

“I think if you’re a Republican and you want to replace this governor, one of the ways you can go after him would be in terms of Louisiana’s economy,” political science professor Dr. G. Pearson Cross of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette said. “You could say that the governor’s coziness with trial lawyers and his attempt to get reparations and join in suits against oil companies for past [alleged] damages has created an unhealthy climate for oil exploration and business.”

That very sort of climate has chased oil companies to Texas.

“I think that is a strong line of attack,” Cross said. “A message that attaches blame to the Edwards administration, or to Democrats in general, is an effective message.”

While it may be effective political posturing, the whole story is even more complicated.

“I think there are a lot of factors,” Cross said. “Democrats are typically seen as the environmental party that’s less full-throated in support of the oil and gas industry, and so it’s kind of easy to tag them with the anti-oil and gas thing, but it leaves out the economic factors – the falling price of oil, the changing dynamics of extraction and all that, that have led the oil industry to move, much of it to move, to Texas.”

Cross also called the high cost of auto insurance an issue of public concern.

“That is an issue that doesn’t play specifically against Democrats,” Cross said. “I think that’s more or less an indictment of Louisiana’s pay-to-play culture, where lack of investment in transportation, rent-seeking by lawyers, have led to this kind of free-for-all that has increased insurance costs for everyone in the state. ... I think that could be laid at the feet of everyone in the legislature who accepts contributions from those interests.”

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