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Louisiana bill to stop oil and gas lawsuits approved by House

Senate Bill 667 has been passed by the Louisiana House of Representatives, much to the dismay of supporters of legacy lawsuits. The bill, which was sponsored by Sen. Robert Adley, is now headed back to the Senate so the changes the House made can be approved. The House approved the bill with a vote of 73-18. Once the Senate approves the bill, it will be forwarded on to the governor for his approval.

The bill will let the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources develop environmental cleanup and restoration plans that the court will presume to be the most feasible. The oil and gas companies can "admit to limited liability involving their actions." All court proceedings would be stopped until completion of the cleanup plan.

The bill will limit the damages that could be paid by the defendants in such lawsuits, and it has the support of the governor.

Opponents believe that halting the court proceedings will leave landowners in limbo for years waiting for the cleanup plans to be completed. Sen. Adley, though, believes that the bill is a compromise between the oil and gas companies and landowners. Opponents have stated that the meetings in which Sen. Adley met with oil and gas business associations and large landowner groups did not include attorneys who had filed legacy lawsuits on behalf of their clients.

One amendment that was proposed by Rep. Patrick Connick was rejected. That amendment would have allowed lawsuits already filed by parishes, such as the 28 filed by Plaquemines and Jefferson parishes against oil and gas companies, to move forward. Rep. Neil Abramson said that those lawsuits didn't rely on the law relating to legacy lawsuits and therefore, the bill would not cover them.

There is little doubt that the governor will sign the bill, as he has been a strong opponent of legacy lawsuits. He has spoken out against the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East's lawsuit and replaced seats on the SLFPA-E's board with those he believed would vote against the lawsuit. That lawsuit seeks reparations for the damage and injury caused to the state's coastal areas by oil and gas company operations.

Source: The Times-Picayune, "House approves bill restricting 'legacy lawsuits' against oil companies, returns it to Senate" Mark Schleifstein, May. 15, 2014

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