This is pretty big, as it might be the biggest economic development issue confronting the state. And prior to a compromise being reached, there was a great deal of trepidation/frustration/griping that Jindal’s friendly relationship with Roy O. Martin and the trial lawyers was going to interfere with a solution getting done.
Looks like one got done, though. The Jindal administration put out a release just now trumpeting an end to the legacy lawsuit controversy…
Governor Bobby Jindal’s point-person on legacy lawsuits – Department of Natural Resources Secretary Scott Angelle – has reached a compromise with landowners, oil and gas industry representatives and key legislators involved in solving the legacy lawsuit issue.
Secretary Angelle said this compromise accomplishes two goals, including accelerating environmental clean-up from exploration and production activities, and ensuring that the party responsible for environmental damage is actually held responsible for cleaning it up.
Secretary Angelle said, “Louisiana has a long and distinguished history of oil and gas production as well as being a unique slice of America that offers some of the best of the great outdoors. To reach a compromise, it was important that we came to a balance that enables us to continue to lead the country in energy production and also be good stewards of the environment. This compromise provides for transparency in the process, accelerates clean-up of the environment and protects innocent parties from punitive damages.
“I want to personally thank Senator Allain, Senator Adley, Senator Long, Senator Alario, Representative Abramson, Speaker Kleckley and all the other stakeholders for their time, passion, and commitment on this issue.”
Key Points For Compromise:
- In order to accelerate clean-up, the compromise will allow a party to admit responsibility for environmental damage according to a regulatory standard without having to admit liability for private damages.
- Once a party admits responsibility, the Department of Natural Resources will be charged with structuring a feasible plan that will protect the environment, public health, safety and welfare of the state.
- The compromise requires oversight of the feasible plan by the Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources, Secretary of the Department of Environmental Quality and the Commissioner of Agriculture.
- Both the feasible plan and the comments of each agency are admissible in court.
- During the design of the feasible plan – and to guarantee, transparency – no employee, contractor or representative of the state shall have any ex parte communication.
- For any party that admits responsibility, they waive the right to enforce contractual rights to indemnification for punitive damages caused by the responsible party’s acts or omission.
Senate President John Alario said, “This is, and has been, a difficult issue to solve for many years. By working together over many months with all of the interested parties we have reached a compromise. I want to thank Sec. Angelle, these Senators, and all the stakeholders for their commitment to remain at the table until a deal could be reached.”
Speaker Chuck Kleckley said, “I want to thank Secretary Angelle, leaders in both chambers, and stakeholders for coming together and reaching a compromise. Now that we have an agreement we can move this legislation through the process.
Senator Robert Adley said, “This is an issue I’ve been personally involved with for many years and I’m thankful that we’ve reached a compromise that satisfies both the oil and gas industry, as well as Louisiana landowners. This is a needed step toward ensuring that companies who are willing to clean up anything they’re required to clean up.”
Senator Gerald Long said, “Today’s agreement is the result of months of hard work and negotiations. I was proud to be a part of this process and I’m more proud that we have come together in way that holds responsible parties accountable and ensures a pathway for us to clean-up our environment. Throughout this process, it has been my intention to find a solution that leaves all stakeholders satisfied. This agreement meets that goal. No one got everything they wanted, but everyone got something and that’s what compromise is all about.”
Louisiana Oil and Gas Association President Don Briggs said, “Over the course of the last twelve months, the Jindal Administration and stakeholders have worked to find a solution to curb the legacy lawsuit problem in Louisiana. Today, we reached an agreement on proposed legacy lawsuit reform legislation that we believe will ensure timely regulatory clean up of the land while protecting a landowner’s right to recover damages.”
President of Roy O. Martin Lumber Roy Martin said, “We thank the Governor’s Office, Senator Allain, Senator Long and our attorney Jimmy Faircloth for working to ensure the interest of landowners, industry, and independent producers are protected in this reasonable compromise. As we move forward, we are passionate in continuing to work with all parties to ensure clean-up is done in a practical manner which doesn’t unjustly enrich one party.”
Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association President Chris John said, “We’ve been working toward a compromise for many months and I want to especially thank Secretary Angelle for his continued commitment to reaching an agreement all parties can agree to. I want to also thank all of the stakeholders involved, including the members of our Association, for working together to send a clear message to the oil and gas industry that Louisiana is open for business.”
Farm Bureau representative Joe Mapes said, “Farm Bureau is pleased with the compromise, especially the oversight by the Commissioner of Agriculture. It is important that agriculture has a voice in this process.”
Louisiana Landowners Association Executive Director Paul Frey said, “The Louisiana Landowners Association appreciates that the Governor’s Office has helped to achieve this compromise. We add a special thanks to Senator Allain who is a key advocate for landowners. Without his leadership this would not have happened.”