Recent developments in Terrebonne Parish should be alarming to all Louisiana citizens – especially those along the bayou whose local rights are being overstepped by overzealous trial attorneys and state government overreach. A dangerous precedent is being set with the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources’ recent appointment of the parish district attorney to conduct damage assessments alleged from oil and gas development in the parish. This is clearly an effort to bypass local elected leadership in outsourcing enforcement responsibility of state and local permits to private lawyers – the same lawyers who stand to benefit financially from their findings. Motivated by self-interest, these hired guns have no regard for the potential impact of lawsuits on thousands of area residents who depend on industry for their livelihoods.
Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch opposes coastal lawsuits because they attempt to stretch the law beyond its intent while ignoring critical facts and involving private lawyers in a space meant for democratically elected decision makers. Targeting the deep pockets of the energy industry does not guarantee that any resulting monetary awards will actually be used for restoration activities.
In this instance, LDNR is putting the cart before the horse by charging the district attorney to develop these models before the department has even identified permit violations – much less investigated any alleged abuses. With such complex issues, a mere comparison of aerial photographs as the basis to determine damages will not provide a complete or accurate picture. Instead of signing on to pursue lawsuits, Terrebonne has already begun to review coastal use permits in the parish.
Parish President Gordon Dove and Lafourche Parish President Jimmy Cantrelle have made it abundantly clear they are not interested in pursuing litigation that singles out an industry that is a major job and revenue creator.
There is a proper role for good regulations that protect the public and for lawsuits that enforce them. But our system of checks and balances breaks down when lawsuits are substituted for policy. It is past time to work together toward constructive solutions - and leave the trial lawyers out of it.
Lana Venable, Executive Director
Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch