Legal battle with LA could drive oil & gas business away - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

Oil & gas industry: Legal battle with Louisiana could drive business away

La. map of almost 50,000 miles of oil and gas pipeline. La. map of almost 50,000 miles of oil and gas pipeline.

The oil and gas industry brings hundreds of millions of dollars into Louisiana every year, but industry representatives say the ongoing legal battle with the state could drive business away.

One may think this lawsuit is just a South Louisiana deal, but it effects the entire state.

Currently there are 14 legacy lawsuits against the oil and gas industry right here in Caddo Parish. A legacy lawsuit is when a landowner claims oil and gas operations caused his or her property to become contaminated thus resulting in the landowner filing suit.

The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPAE) is suing about 100 oil companies for the damage the SLFPAE says they're doing to the Louisiana coastline

The Louisiana Oil and Gas Association (LOGA) represents most of those companies and is taking action on the lawsuit.

"They [SLFPAE] sued 97 oil and gas companies on the alleged grounds that the oil and gas companies has caused the majority of coastal erosion, which is clearly not the case," LOGA Director of Communications and  North Louisiana Shale Director Ragan Dickens said.

LOGA is in the middle of a lawsuit with Attorney General Buddy Caldwell's office because Caldwell allowed outside legal council to represent the levee board, a state board, in the lawsuit. Something LOGA says is against state law.

"The issue here is when you bring in outside council they do work based on a contingency fee basis. It then becomes about the millions of dollars that these lawyers can make as opposed to what their first alleged issue is," Dickens said.

Now LOGA is trying to quash the original lawsuit to prevent a small group of attorneys representing SLFPAE, or the levee board, from draining the companies. Dickens said the companies will stop doing business in Louisiana if they keep getting sued.

"It's unconstitutionally approved. The AG went against the Louisiana constitution to approve the resolution to allow the coastal authority to have outside council. And as the lawsuits build up, it becomes more and more clear to the industry this is about one thing and it's money," Dickens said.

State Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell disagrees with LOGA. In a recent editorial Campbell wrote and posted on his website, he said he agrees with the AG and the initial lawsuit against the oil and gas companies.

"The proof's in the pudding," Campbell said. "Oil companies cause 36-percent of the damage. That's what this suit addresses. What's the big rush? Let the suit progress. Let it go to court and let a judge decide did they cause or if they didn't cause it."

Campbell said he thinks the oil companies are upset and worried about the lawsuit, hence the urgency to quash the lawsuit as soon as possible.

Like the SLFPAE, Campbell agrees the oil companies should pay up and fix the Louisiana coastline.

"I think this levee board has a lot of courage. More than any other in the state. Most people wouldn't touch it with a 10-foot pole because they know the politics is not there. Bobby Jindal's against it. He's against the lawsuit," Campbell said.

"He doesn't want to sue any big company. He's always on the side of the big guys versus the people. Every time he's going to be a big corporate guy. You can look for him and he's in the white corner now. He wants to protect the oil companies," he said.

According to other sources, Governor Bobby Jindal said he did not approve for the attorney general to allow outside legal council to represent the levee board.

Campbell said the LOGA believes lawsuits filed against the oil and gas companies will eventually cause them to stop doing business in the state, but he disagrees.

"We have 50,000 miles of pipeline," he said. "Here's all these pipelines and it goes all across America. Oil and gas comes right up the Mississippi River to these refineries and it's shipped all the way to Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, New York. Do anybody in their right mind think they're going to rip up all those pipelines? Well of course they can't."

But Dickens with the LOGA says this lawsuit is all about the money and they want to get rid of the "greedy trial lawyers attacking" the oil and gas industry.

"The more these frivolous lawsuits are allowed to go through and these large sums of money or these judgments are approved, this is not just going to affect the oil and gas industry. It's going to creep into other industries. This used to be a South Louisiana, coastal issue, and now the lawsuits against the oil and gas companies, particularly the legacy lawsuits, are now all the way to Caddo Parish," Dickens said.

On Monday, March 10, State District Judge Janice Clark out of Baton Rouge ruled against LOGA and in favor of the attorney general. Dickens said LOGA disagrees and will be taking it to the first district appellate court to challenge this lawsuit at the next level.

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