Dozens of oil and gas producers in Louisiana are facing massive lawsuits for their role in eroding “untold acres” of coastline. The suits are being brought by parish officials and district attorneys all over the Louisiana coast. These companies are being held accountable for exploratory drilling, which has a history of causing irreversible damage to both public and private property. Visit here for more information about this subject.
Specifically, the charges are being brought under the Coastal Zone Management Act, which requires that land being explored for natural resources needs to be returned to a “practicable state.”
While one case was dismissed (with the possibility of filing in the future), another suit is being brought by District Attorney Keith Stutes. He represents Acadia, Lafayette, and Vermilion parishes—all areas with a highly active oil and drilling industry. His list of defendants includes 49 oil and gas production companies.
His suit wants to hold these companies responsible for damage caused to land, water, and geologic features, which has damaged future “cultural and economic” opportunities.
Opposition from Local Officials
Stutes is facing opposition from parish officials who believe that staying friendly with the oil and gas industry is vital to the local economy. Companies are threatening to leave the state over the lawsuit, essentially holding hostage millions of dollars in jobs and economic development. The Vermilion Parish Police Jury, the governing board of the region, voted unanimously to drop the lawsuit to preserve relationships with the industry.
However, they have no authority to demand this from the District Attorney, who has sole discretion in this case.
At Arnold & Itkin, our firm understands the concerns of parish officials, who want to ensure the well-being of their constituents, which includes attracting industry to the region. However, when any company is alleged to have committed wrongdoing, the people who suffer from negligence deserve to have their voice heard. Attracting industry should not require permitting companies to do what they want with the environment.
Here’s the bottom line:
The people of Louisiana, both in principle and practically, have potentially suffered as a result of poor oil and gas practices. They should have the chance to hold companies accountable in court for property contamination.