LANDRY: Preventing Coastal Extortion

Last year, I wrote extensively on how the Attorney General had engaged in a pattern of promoting frivolous lawsuits against many Louisiana job creators in an effort to dole out unconstitutional contingency fee contracts to his buddies at the expense of our hard-working taxpayers.

One of those lawsuits was by the Southeast Flood Protection Authority against 97 oil and gas companies. I opined that this lawsuit was entirely without merit and would cost Louisiana jobs. However, Buddy Caldwell and the environmental left promoted this as a windfall for the state – punishing the energy industry while fattening the pockets of a select few lawyers.

Apparently Judge Nanette Brown, an Obama appointee, agreed with me – because this month she threw the entire case out of court. Her opinion, which spans 43 pages of legalese, eloquently lays out the fact that no legal basis for the lawsuit could be found – confirming that Louisiana’s largest economic engine is not responsible for the loss of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands.

While the Corps of Engineers and their flood control designs have been the biggest contributor to our coastal problems, science has proven that natural subsidence and other natural processes are contributing to our coastline’s problems.

As a Member of Congress, I convinced my colleagues to approve legislation that would increase Louisiana’s share of oil and gas royalties to pay for coastal restoration and hurricane protection projects. And Congressman Scalise was instrumental in getting the RESTORE Act, a bill that dedicates BP fine money to the states adversely affected by the Deepwater Horizon spill, signed into law.

With all of the aforementioned revenue coming from one source – oil and gas exploration – only a fool would say the energy industry is not contributing to restoration efforts, especially since it privately contributes tens of millions of dollars to conservation and other environmental endeavors within our state and provides our state with over $1 billion in direct revenue to address coastal issues.

Driven by our responsible elected officials and their good public policy, we have mechanisms in place to deal with Louisiana’s oil and gas industry and any impact it may have on our environment. This makes Caldwell’s “Buddy System” approach even more shameful; fortunately, Judge Brown rebuked him for that.

Caldwell should have known better than to authorize this type of coastal extortion. Contingency contracts by the state are prohibited to prevent this type of racketeering. If Caldwell had been successful, he would have turned Louisiana’s coastal protection and flood control issues into an ambulance chasing free for all.

It was bad legal theory. It was bad policy. It was reckless. And, it was flat-out irresponsible. It’s a shame that we had to rely on the Federal court system to straighten out the mess created by one of our state’s elected officials.

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