This past Thursday the District Attorney for the 15th Judicial District, Keith Stutes, announced the filing of litigation against 49 oil and gas defendants on behalf of Vermilion Parish. This suit follows the same misguided thought process of the lawsuits recently filed by Cameron, Jefferson, and Plaquemines Parishes. These trial lawyers’ insatiable appetite for cash perpetuates their misguided thought process, leading them to once again ignore the fact that the oil and gas industry is already heavily regulated by the Office of Conservation and the Department of Natural Resources.
District Attorney Stutes and the trial lawyers at the Lafayette based firm Broussard & David have put Vermilion Parish down a dangerous path that will lead to economic turmoil. The message they sent is simple: extort millions and drive out industry.
This litigation is fueled by the same trial lawyers who have been extorting millions of dollars from the oil and gas industry for years. District Attorney Stutes claims the “cleanup and restoration of these damages will create new and enormous economic and employment opportunities for the people of Vermillion Parish…” The problem with this logic is that, District Attorney Stutes’ expertise is as a litigant, not as an economic developer. He thinks these suits will help, while in reality, these lawsuits will immediately divert these valuable resources away from the coast while the industry is shaken-down in the courtroom. What happens then to those 17,000 plus jobs created by industry in the Lafayette Metropolitan Statistical Area? It is unfathomable that the District Attorney and a local Lafayette law firm are leading this charge. They are looking to create economic development from the courtroom, all at the cost of industry.
To make industry’s current struggles worse, these lawsuits continue to create a hostile environment that does not promote investments by business. When the market and industry recover, it won’t be in Louisiana, these lawsuits will have already done their damage. That is why right now, the actions of industry and those who support it, are pivotal.
There is already a rigorous regulatory process in place to ensure that each coastal use permit in the state is in compliance. Any concerns can be addressed through this process without falling into the trap these trial lawyers have set, which will lead to excessive delays and exorbitant legal costs associated with litigation for the oil companies. Ignoring the administrative regulatory process and immediately dragging this into the court room removes any appearance of legitimacy associated with their motives. We cannot let this continue, it is up to us to defend our industry.