Looking for a Big Easy windfall

Trial lawyers take aim at Louisiana’s economic backbone – seek jackpot from oil industry

Trial lawyers have carved out a cottage industry suing Louisiana’s oil and natural gas companies. Now they are now teaming up for a huge jackpot – multi-billion-dollar awards based on blaming the energy industry for Louisiana’s coastal land erosion….

The opportunistic and predatory trial lawyers would have the people of Louisiana and America believe the energy industry alone is responsible for decades-long coastal erosion.  In concocting this narrative, they leave out vitally important facts:

* Studies demonstrating the impact of natural erosion from ocean currents in the Gulf of Mexico;

* Hurricane and other storm impacts;

* Human actions such as the Army Corps of Engineers building levees along the Mississippi River; and

* Soil conservation practices through the Midwest and beyond, which have greatly reduced silt entering the river and reaching the delta.

The prospect of a multi-million-dollar prize gives the lawyers powerful incentives to pursue “jackpot justice.”  However, they have produced no credible evidence correlating coastal land loss with drilling projects going back as far as the 1930s….

Even more outrageous, these energy projects were sanctioned, permitted, and encouraged by Louisiana and its regulatory agencies….

Nevertheless, the lawyers are trotting out river bargeloads of junk science in pursuit of billion-dollar judgments. Even if successful, money remaining after the trial lawyers’ princely cut would likely evaporate within the state’s general fund, leaving little for actual solutions to coastal erosion.

The oil and gas industry has been the backbone of Louisiana’s economy for decades, with many families, friends and neighbors working to build the industry. The industry has generated billions in employee earnings in Louisiana and along the Gulf Coast….

 

Sadly for Louisiana and U.S. citizens, the trial lawyers have stacked the deck. They provided overwhelming support to fellow trial lawyer John Bel Edwards in his successful bid for governor and have worked to ensure that their handpicked Louisiana Supreme Court nominees were put on the bench.

In 2016, Governor Edwards hosted representatives from several energy companies in a meeting and – reading from a script apparently prepared by the jackpot lawyers – issued a directive that they begin settlement negotiations the following week, to avoid further litigation….

It’s certainly hard to argue that state Supreme Court Justices James Hughes and Jefferson Genovese don’t favor trial lawyers, when the lawyers accounted for nearly half of the justices’ campaign expenditures.

It’s easy to see why the trial lawyers hope to keep these cases in Louisiana courts, where they exert powerful influence, and away from federal courts that have strict rules against “junk science” and where the issues would be adjudicated properly and fairly….

Louisiana remains at the forefront of safe exploration and production of oil and natural gas. The industry has a longstanding history of cooperation with public officials, community leaders, and natural resource and environmental experts. It remains the top private investor in Louisiana’s Gulf Coast.

Decades of state and national investment, infrastructure, jobs, community involvement and revenue generation could be destroyed by a greedy cadre of trial lawyers who think they’ve found the perfect “get rich quick” scheme. Only by sending these cases to federal courts can any fair resolution be found.

NOTE:  Excerpted from an article of the same title that appeared in Investor’s Business Daily.

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About the Author: Paul Driessen

Paul Driessen

Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor for CFACT and author of Cracking Big Green and Eco-Imperialism: Green Power - Black Death.