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May 16th, 2012

The Time is Now for Louisiana Legislators to Take a Stand against Legacy Lawsuit Abuse

The end of the Louisiana state legislative session is fast approaching.  Legislators will adjourn on June 4, 2012, and with only a few weeks left in the session, one cannot help but wonder- how much longer before leaders take action to protect the state from costly legacy lawsuit abuse. 

H.B. 618, a proactive legacy lawsuit reform bill, passed the House of Representatives with overwhelming support nearly two weeks ago, but yet it still awaits action in the Senate.  With every day that passes, more and more stakeholders are speaking out for reform.  As originally reported by Melissa Landry of the Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch, Scott Sinclair, President of Tensas Delta Exploration Company, a Louisiana-based independent oil and gas operator, sent a letter urging support for H.B. 618.  In it he expressed the need for a legislative solution that would address the root of the problem, “abusive lawsuits being pursued by a small contingent of plaintiff attorneys who go into courts and tell juries that their clients need ridiculous sums of money to clean up messes (that often times do not exist.)”  He continued by stating, “The abusive part of legacy suits is not the regulatory cleanup.  It is the outrageous claims for hundreds of millions (and sometimes billions of dollars) for cleanups in excess of regulatory standards.”

H.B. 618 would help address the problem by allowing operators to, (1) admit regulatory liability, without creating other unintended or unfavorable consequences; (2) get a science-focused plan to deal with real environmental issues; and (3) inform juries about the cost of regulatory cleanup of properties. 

Jeffrey Hildebrand, CEO of Hilcorp Energy, the largest producer of crude oil in Louisiana and a company that has put billions into the state economy, also wrote to legislators urging them to take action.  In his letter, he wrote of the dire consequences for the state economy if the legislators choose to remain inactive.

If drilling has caused damages, then the responsible party should provide for the cleanup, but lawsuits scams should not be tolerated.  As ATRA reported earlier in the year, plaintiffs lawyers promoting these lawsuits claim they want environmental clean-up for the so-called legacy sites.  But the facts are clear, the only ones cleaning up are a few politically-connected law firms.  It is time for the legislators to step in and protect their local businesses and state economy from legacy lawsuit abuse by passing legislative reform.

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