Media and environmental group commentators, speaking on the recent lawsuits filed against energy companies over alleged wetlands loss, are seeking to portray the oil and gas industry in a manner that does not correctly represent the community oriented, job producing, and economy stimulating industry of oil and gas. To read the media accounts, and the comments by proponents of the suits, one would be led to believe that these oil and gas companies are all based out of state, and are Fortune 500 companies driven only by shareholder distributions and profits that go into deep pockets outside Louisiana.
Such characterizations are unfair and wholly inaccurate. They deserve a second look and an accurate depiction of the facts. One look at the extensive list of companies being sued tells the real story. In fact, of the 97 energy companies targeted in the South Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East’s suit, the vast majority are small, independent operators and not large multi-national corporations. Many of these companies are family owned and operated businesses, and in some cases, generations old.
These Louisiana based companies’ employees live, hunt, fish and vacation in South Louisiana. They own homes, pay taxes, vote and are involved in their children’s school and recreational programs right here in Louisiana. These workers have a deep regard for the environment and the distinct cultural heritage that makes Louisiana a special place to live, work and raise a family. And they do not need to be reminded that saving the Louisiana coast and protecting the wetlands is everyone’s responsibility, and not simply the purview of a few environmentalists who claim to speak for what is best for Louisiana.
The implied message of the plaintiffs is that suing the energy companies does not really hurt anyone who really matters. They say, “Let Big Oil pay. They can afford it. They don’t live here. They do not care about us. They need us more than we need them.”
While such cynical implications make good media fodder, nothing could be further from the truth.
The Gulf Coast’s small and independent energy companies and their larger integrated counterparts do have at least three things in common. First, they all understand that these suits are divisive and counter-productive. They know the parishes and agencies that have filed suit have no jurisdiction over the very permits that have allegedly have been violated, and have no legal standing to bring these suits in the first place.
They also see through the plaintiff’s hollow argument that they do not hold industry solely responsible for wetlands loss. After all, only the energy companies have been sued, effectively leaving oil companies to pick up the tab for everyone else.
Finally, the independent energy companies of Louisiana know that coastal erosion will not be solved by finger pointing and casting blame on one industry. As the State’s “Master Plan for A Sustainable Coast” points out, real solutions lie in working together, collaboratively and in good faith, toward this important goal. Louisiana’s energy companies will continue doing what they have done for decades: protect our coast, our culture and our habitat for many years to come.
Vice Chairman, Independent Petroleum Association of America and Merlin Oil and Gas Inc.