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'Legacy lawsuits' in Louisiana to see big change

It's difficult for many who opposed Sen. Robert Adley's bill to learn that it is now headed to Gov. Jindal for his signature. There is little doubt as to that happening, especially when the governor has been such a staunch opponent to lawsuits against the oil and gas industry in the state. Sen. Adley's bill was passed by the state Senate on Tuesday by a 27-12 vote.

What does this mean for the so-called "legacy lawsuits" in the state? For lawsuits that have court dates prior to May 15, there should be little change. However, for suits that come afterwards, there are some major changes in the process. For example, the damages that such lawsuits can seek have changed. The bill says that the Department of Natural Resource's plans for cleaning up problems caused by the oil and gas companies are the most feasible.

Governor Jindal stated in March that an agreement between landowners and the oil and gas industry had been made, but when legislators started to debate the bill, it became clear that that was not the case. Many of the people who have filed lawsuits because of damage due to drilling weren't part of the agreement.

Sen. Adley said, "It gives [landowners] more rights than they had when they filed the suit." Senator Jody Amedee, though, doesn't believe that's the case at all. He said, "This isn't about clean land. This is about money. That's all it's about."

The effect of the bill on the current Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East lawsuit is unknown. That suit seeks damages from the oil and gas industry for the destruction and injury to some the state's coastal areas. Only time will tell if legal challenges to this new bill and others dealing with similar issues will stand up in court.

Source: The Town Talk, "Process for handling Louisiana's 'legacy lawsuits' to change" Melinda Deslatte, Associated Press, May. 21, 2014

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