Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has signed a bill into law that outlaws a lawsuit against oil companies for damage to the state's coast.
The bill nullifies a New Orleans-area levee board's lawsuit against oil and gas companies, despite Attorney General Buddy Caldwell advising the governor to veto it. The concern is the measure will impact claims filed against BP for the 2010 gulf oil spill.
Opponents of the bill that squelches the levee board's environmental lawsuit against 97 oil and gas companies say they now have more than 70 legal scholars who say the bill also threatens state and local litigation over the 2010 BP lawsuit.
The levee board lawsuit says drilling and dredging by oil, gas and pipeline interests is responsible for much of the erosion of wetlands that protect New Orleans from hurricanes. Jindal opposes the suit and supports the bill to kill it. But he has held off on signing it amid questions from legal experts who say it was so broadly written it could affect lawsuits arising from the BP disaster.
The bill by Sen. Bret Allain would retroactively scuttle the lawsuit. Opponents say it will likely be challenged in court.
Jindal and his top lawyer say they do not believe the suit would affect state and local BP litigation.
Steve Murchie with the group called Gulf Restoration Network is calling the bill "governance at its worst."
Here is the release from Governor Bobby Jindal:
Today, Governor Jindal signed SB 469 by Sen. Bret Allain, legislation that will help continue coastal restoration work and stop unnecessary, frivolous lawsuits. The bill is part of Governor Jindal's 2014 Legislative Package.
The Governor signed SB 469 to clarify that only entities authorized under the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) may bring litigation to assert claims arising out of permitted activities. These parties include parishes and the state. It further requires that dollars recovered through CZMA litigation must be spent on coastal restoration. This law ensures that the state's coastal master plan and the collaborative work of the state and the parishes on coastal restoration are not threatened with lawsuits.
Governor Jindal said, "This bill will help stop frivolous lawsuits and create a more fair and predictable legal environment, and I am proud to sign it into law. It further improves Louisiana's legal environment by reducing unnecessary claims that burden businesses so that we can bring even more jobs to our state. The bill will also send future recovered dollars from CZMA litigation to coastal projects, allowing us to ensure Louisiana coastal lands are preserved and that our communities are protected."
Senator Bret Allain said, "As a senator, and life-long resident of a coastal parish, there is no one who is more concerned about protecting the state I love. The fact is the Louisiana Legislature sees the suit for what it is, a frivolous lawsuit that hurts jobs, and we have voiced our support for SB 469 to end this frivolous lawsuit. I am proud that the Governor is signing this legislation."
Senator Robert Adley said, "This bill keeps a rogue agency from misrepresenting this State and trying to raise money through illegal actions. This lawsuit was never about repairing the coast; it was about enriching lawyers and certain individuals. I applaud the Governor for signing the bill and standing up for Louisiana and it's people."
LOGA President Don Briggs said, "The signing of SB 469 is a huge victory for the oil and gas industry as well as the economy for the state of Louisiana. We commend Governor Jindal for his leadership and support of this bill as it made its way through the process. The governor understands the importance of keeping the hardworking men and women of our state employed with good paying jobs. While there is still much work to be done, this piece of legislation is a big step in the right direction."
Here is the statement from Murchie:
This legislation is governance at its worst: poorly written, for the worst of reasons, with no public benefit, and having potentially staggering unintended consequences. Governor Jindal, in his zeal to please the oil and gas industry and further his political ambitions, has abandoned the hundreds of thousands of Louisianans facing another hurricane season with inadequate storm protection and a disappearing coast.
Everyone involved in the passage of this bill owns the consequences, but no one is more responsible for shielding the oil and gas industry from accountability than Governor Jindal. He has undermined the efforts of everyone working to restore coastal Louisiana. Not only has he refused to ask the oil and gas industry to live up to their legal obligations, or contribute to coastal restoration in any meaningful way, he has actively blocked others from simply enforcing the law.
The result is that Louisiana taxpayers will pay for the oil and gas industry’s damage to our coast, if we can afford restoration at all.
Any portion of this statement may be quoted with attribution to Steve Murchie, Campaign Director, Gulf Restoration Network.