LLAW opposes coastal lawsuits because they attempt to stretch the law far beyond its intentions, ignore critical facts and involve private lawyers in a space meant for democratically elected decision makers.
Decades-old claims against the job-creating energy industry cost jobs and deter investment:
We all recognize the need to protect our families, businesses and communities from hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters; we are all impacted in one way or another by our rapidly changing environment.
The 43 suits filed by plaintiffs’ lawyers on behalf of seven coastal parishes send the wrong message about Louisiana. Our natural resources have driven Louisiana’s economy for generations, transforming Louisiana into one of the nation’s leading oil and gas producers.
In an unprecedented abuse of the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA), these suits attempt to outsource the enforcement of state-issued permits to local governing authorities.
These misguided suits target more than 200 large and small producers, threatening Louisiana’s long-term economic growth, discouraging continued investment by the energy sector and reinforcing our long-held reputation as one of the worst states for doing business in the country.
Since 2013, the parties have been mired in this litigation with no immediate resolution in sight. Even if these suits are successful, there is no requirement that the parishes or cities use any eventual settlement funds for remediation.
According to the 2019 The U.S Chamber Institute for Legal Reform’s Litigation vs. Restoration report:
The oil and gas industry employs nearly two million Louisianans and pays hundreds of millions of dollars into the state treasury each year. It is at the core of Louisiana’s economy, and has been for many years. But over the last few decades, plaintiffs’ lawyers have recruited increasing numbers of private landowners and state and local officials to file lawsuits against oil and gas companies over allegedly contributing to coastal erosion. This litigation has reached a point that it threatens the future of the energy industry in Louisiana.
Like earlier legacy lawsuits, the parish and city suits target any oil and gas company that ever worked within an identified operational area. This scheme incentivizes lawyers to bring these claims to obtain high payouts, with no real focus on restoration.
The private attorneys hired by the parishes to represent them in the coastal erosion suits are likely to benefit the most from these lawsuits.
Under the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006 (GOMESA), the state receives annual funding for coastal conservation, restoration and hurricane protection. Such funding allows the state to remediate costal erosion now, without having to wait for litigation to resolve.
The state departments should be working together and collaborating with industry professionals to develop effective plans to restore the coastline, instead of initiating divisive litigation that halts progress towards remediation.
A 2019 Pelican Institute Economic Analysis of Coastal Litigation found:
Lawsuits seeking to make oil and gas companies pay for damages to Louisiana’s coastal environment cost the state’s economy between $44.4 million $113 million per year.
Between 53 and 74 fewer oil wells were drilled offshore than would have been drilled if the threat of lawsuits were lower in the state, and the lawsuit risk caused a decrease of more than 2,000 jobs, with a combined payroll of about $70 million per year.