Much Needed Legacy Lawsuit Reform Headed to Louisiana Governor for Approval
On Thursday, May 28th, the Louisiana House and Senate unanimously passed two partner bills that tackle the contentious legacy lawsuit issue. Governor Bobby Jindal is expected to sign the legislation this week. H.B. 618 and S.B. 555 provide oil producers with the ability to admit to responsibility for cleaning up pollution from past oil drilling activities without admitting to larger damages. The admission would not waive the admitting party’s right to use any of the available defenses in court. The bills also would create a system where the Department of Natural Resources would develop a cleanup plan for polluted lands that would be open to public scrutiny via a public hearing. The cleanup plan also would have to pass analysis by the Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Agriculture.
This compromise comes after months of a “bureaucratic quagmire.” Louisiana Oil and Gas Association President Don Briggs said the battle over this reform was the most difficult in his 20 years as an energy industry advocate, but he finished by saying how pleased he was with the outcome. Briggs echoed a sentiment shared by many when discussing his hope that all who were involved can now move forward with the hundreds of cases that are pending and stop the extortion of the industry.
ATRA applauds the Louisiana legislature’s ability to come to such a compromise, and is hopeful that this new system will provide increased transparency and decrease the number of meritless lawsuits and outrageous clean-up claims filed in the Louisiana courts. This critical reform will provide a much needed balance between the state’s environmental and economic interests, and will prevent further lawsuit abuse. This is an issue that ATRA has followed closely for the past several months, and will continue to do so.