The cabal of trial lawyers have recently received some rather unfortunate press from both local and national publications. I say it is about time that the national media takes a closer look at the atrocity that is taking place in our state. Business and industry, especially those in oil and gas that have decided to remain in Louisiana, are plagued by a business environment waist deep in litigation. The environment must change.
On March 2nd, The Wall Street Journal published a piece titled, “The Governor and Louisiana Lawyers Plot an Energy Shakedown,” and boy was it a breath of fresh air. The article paints a clear picture of what our industry has been dealing with for decades and even more so under this current Governor’s Administration.
The Governor is effectively extorting the oil and gas industry to (allegedly) fund the coastal master plan and to thank his trial lawyers who were financially supportive of his run for Governor in 2015. The leader of our state is robbing Peter to pay Paul; Governor Edwards is robbing the hard-working men and women of Louisiana to pay for the headshots plastered on billboards along Louisiana’s major roadways.
The negative publicity has only grown over the past week. When a certain state political publication with whom our readers are familiar released a column further unpacking the findings in the Wall Street Journal, its publisher was met with the threat of a lawsuit. It is safe to say this column ruffled some trial lawyer feathers. The same slip-and-sue attorney who is leading the charge to sue oil and gas companies is now going after reporters.
Therein lies the problem – oil and gas companies are having to face such harsh conditions while looking to invest in Louisiana. These oil and gas producers who have lawfully fulfilled their state-issued permits are now being sued for lawful activities as far as 80 years in the past. These are not welcoming arms to business and industry of any sort. This style of litigation activity is turning away job creators from our beloved state and forcing those who are in Louisiana to consider options elsewhere.
The effects of these lawsuits against oil and gas companies are staggering. While the oil and gas sector continues to boom across the nation, some of Louisiana’s most oil and gas-dependent areas are suffering from struggling economies and stagnant job growth. Our future oil and gas workforce is going to have a difficult time finding employment inside the borders of Louisiana.
The oil and gas industry is ingrained in the cultural fibers of Louisiana. The partnership between the industry and the state is vital to the health of Louisiana’s working coast, our economy and our future, but the Governor’s relationship with trial lawyers is ruining that partnership. The leader of our state must realize that the fiscal problems we face cannot be fixed with more taxes and litigation. We must develop an environment in Louisiana that allows companies to create jobs and valuable revenue for the state. Then and only then we Louisiana be on the path to prosperity.
Don Briggs is President of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association.