BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - A controversial bill seeking to kill a lawsuit filed by a southeast Louisiana levee board against the oil and gas industry has edged near final passage, getting support Wednesday from the House natural resources committee.
The Senate-approved bill, supported by Gov. Bobby Jindal, is an effort to void the lawsuit filed by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East alleging that the drilling activities of 97 oil and gas companies damaged Louisiana's coast and vulnerable wetlands.
The House committee advanced the proposal (Senate Bill 469) by Sen. Bret Allain, R-Franklin, to the full House with a 13-6 vote.
Allain's proposal would define which governmental entities can bring legal claims about management of Louisiana's coastal zones to entities designated in the Coastal Zone Management Act. The levee boards aren't on the list.
While the bill wouldn't void the levee board lawsuit outright, supporters of the measure say it would offer a legal argument for someone seeking to have the lawsuit thrown out.
"We're voting to kill the lawsuit by voting for this bill?" asked Rep. Eddie Lambert, R-Gonzales, who opposed the measure.
"No doubt about it," Allain replied.
Backers of the lawsuit say the industry hasn't sufficiently been held accountable for damage done by dredging for canals and pipelines. Jindal and industry leaders say the lawsuit is an unfair attack on a valuable industry and a windfall for trial lawyers.
The proposal wouldn't affect similar lawsuits filed by Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes against oil and gas companies.
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