Friday, 18 May 2012 07:46
Louisiana legislation could erase a bad legacy on landowner lawsuits
Written by 

legal-gavel2Last February, Louisiana’s Department of Natural Resources issued a report to the Legislature which focused on several issues, but mainly on the timely remediation of contamination of the state’s oilfield sites.  That report tracked the history of “legacy lawsuits” which have been filed as well as legislative efforts to assure that the properties are cleaned up to a set of state standards. 

It was evident that the most recent leg

islative attempt, Act 312 of 2006 which set up the process for speedy resolution, hasn’t worked as envisioned by its authors, and over 200 cases still languish in court with no cleanup of the alleged contamination.  With this backdrop, this year’s Legislature has been wrestling with the task of bringing together the host of interested parties to speed up the process.  Negotiations revolved around competing technical and legal solutions offered by landowners, the oil and gas industry, and the general business community. 

Finally, after months of negotiation, a compromise was reached with the assistance of the administration and key legislative leaders.  The bills which are now making their way through the process will allow a party to admit responsibility for cleaning up environmental damage according to regulatory standards without admitting liability for any other claims for damages.  The Department of Natural Resources will at that point structure a remediation plan to protect the environment, public health, safety and welfare of the state. The plan will be sent to the court as part of the evidence to be considered by the judge and jury.  These two features had been thought to be part of the 2006 law, but some of the state’s courts have held that the plan wouldn’t be developed until after the court had awarded damages to the plaintiff.

The compromise sounds simple, far from the tenor of the tense wrangling that has been going on.  But it will achieve the three goals which the business community has been promoting throughout the process. 

The right for a party to admit responsibility for the cleanup of property without accepting liability for private claims as well.

An expedited hearing to determine the most feasible plan for the cleanup.

The admissibility in court of the plan including the actual amount of environmental damage found on the property.

In combination, these three components of the legislation will not only lead to speedy cleanup, but they will also help reduce or eliminate the exaggerated claims that are leading to excessive awards in legacy lawsuit cases.   From the state’s economic viewpoint, this benefit will help bring back investment in exploring and drilling for oil in South Louisiana, an area which has languished for the past decade.  Investors have simply looked for more attractive and less litigious areas and states, diverting employment and job opportunities away from Louisiana.

What remains is for the Legislature to also agree to the compromise, and in most instances legislators would prefer to vote “yes” to a compromise than to have to take one side or the other.  With the clock ticking, the bills must still make it through the process.

Once the Legislature has approved the bills, the governor will be able to put his stamp of approval on the changes.  Then the oil and gas companies involved will be able to step up to the plate, admit responsibility for the regulatory cleanup, and take advantage of this new tool that the compromise has offered them.

by Dan Juneau

# # #

(Ginger Sawyer, Vice President and Director of LABI’s Energy Council, contributed to this column.)

 

 

 
Join Our Email List
Email:  

 

Login to post comments
  • A July 4th Fact of Facts: America is Land of Immigrants
  • Poll: Trump strong on jobs, weak on tweets, viewed as reckless, thin-skinned, sexist
  • President Trump, It doesn't feel like Independence Day
  • YIPPIE! The naked truth about free speech, cherished especially on Independence Day

mass2On July 4, 1778, George Washington doubled liquor rations for the soldiers quartered in Princeton, NJ, as a way to celebrate Independence Day. It’s fitting, therefore, that the Fourth of July is America's top-selling beer holiday, according to the Beer Institute. It estimated, in 2013, that sales of beer on the 4th could total $1 billion, doubtlessly higher today. “In moderation,” claims a CA brewery investor, Grover McKean, “beer is tasty and healthy.” Who could disagree?

Read More

joe mikaAs Donald Trump faces the top world leaders this week, including a face-time with Vladimir Putin, and as his healthcare proposals face an uphill climb, his poll numbers for how the nation views him could be better.

According to a morning Consult/Politico poll released Wednesday morning, his tweets, including that against MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski, and his personality are not helping him, at all.

Read More

indy dayII know the calendar says we are approaching the 4th of July, but, it just doesn’t feel like Independence Day.

Perhaps it should.  It’s hot as heck.  The airlines have been packed. The hot dogs are ready for grilling.  The umps are saying, "play ball". The patriotic activities are scheduled. The fireworks are ready-for-blasting. 

Yet, it just doesn’t feel like independence day.

Read More

bill rights2To President Thomas Jefferson, July 4th celebrated more than the signing of the Declaration of Independence. He thought it was a link to the future. The message prominent colonists sent to King George III led to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the initial and most prominent feature of which is the First Amendment that guarantees free speech. It’s part of the country’s fundamental essence that each man and woman can say what they feel about government, or anything else, proving President Donald Trump needs some civics lessons.

Read More

latter-blum2

Dead Pelican

Optimized-DeadPelican2 1 1