Attorney General Jeff Landry announced Thursday he’s backing a $100 million settlement between a dozen coastal parishes and mining corporation Freeport McMoRan to end a lawsuit over damage to Louisiana’s coastal wetlands.
Landry’s decision to sign off on a deal quickly prompted replies and criticism from the oil and gas industry who worry the agreement could set a precedent affecting dozens of other pending coastal lawsuits filed by 12 coastal parishes and the city of New Orleans against oil companies.
Tyler Gray, President of the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association (LMOGA), and Mike Moncla, President of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association (LOGA), issued the following joint statement today in response to new developments regarding the Louisiana coastal lawsuits:
“It is disappointing that some elected officials have sided with plaintiffs’ attorneys in support of job-killing lawsuits and a flawed settlement scheme that could put our coast further at risk.
Through these lawsuits, the government seeks to impose sweeping, retroactive liability on the entire oil and gas industry for activities carried out according to federal laws and regulations decades ago. This misguided attempt to rewrite history and penalize energy producers for legally conducted operations that have been endorsed and incentivized by state and local leaders for nearly a century is a distortion of the law dreamed up and marketed by plaintiffs’ attorneys, presumably to serve their own financial gain.
The secretive manner in which the proposed settlement with one defendant is being plotted behind closed doors also raises serious concerns. It’s been over a year since this purported ‘deal’ was announced, and the public has yet to see the details, including the actual terms. This complete lack of transparency and oversight has allowed private plaintiffs’ attorneys to act with unbridled discretion over government-sponsored lawsuits, which have the potential to impact coastal, economic, and environmental policy in the state for generations.
Contrary to recent claims by some elected officials, this proposed settlement is not dedicated to coastal restoration—the supposed reason why these lawsuits were filed. Under this problematic proposal, funds could be used for projects unrelated to coastal restoration and hurricane protection. This convoluted approach is inconsistent with current state law, and it exposes these lawsuits for what they really are—a money grab unconcerned with coastal restoration.
LMOGA, LOGA, and our member companies will continue to fight these meritless coastal lawsuits and oppose the implementation of this untenable settlement scheme. However, we remain committed to developing real solutions that will preserve and protect our coast, and we welcome the opportunity to work with Governor Edwards, Attorney General Landry, and other leaders in undertaking collaborative efforts to achieve this shared goal.”
Daniel Erspamer, chief executive officer of the Pelican Institute for Public Policy (Pelican Institute), released the following statement regarding the proposed agreement seeking to settle coastal land loss claims against a single defendant that no longer operates in Louisiana.
“Frivolous government-sponsored coastal lawsuits have and continue to inflict tremendous pain on Louisiana’s working families without demonstrably having any impact on coastal restoration, the issue which they purport to address. A Pelican Institute study found that the coastal lawsuits had a direct impact on Louisiana’s economy, costing $44 million to $113 million each year since the coastal lawsuits were filed and at least 2,000 jobs over just the first two-year period when the lawsuits were first filed. Our state government shouldn’t be in the business of suing job creators, particularly considering the fact that these lawsuits kill jobs without guaranteeing funding will go towards coastal restoration efforts. Taxpayers and concerned citizens across Louisiana deserve full transparency in the state’s role in driving these job-killing lawsuits, as well as full disclosure on how any dollars collected would be spent.”