The Plaquemines Parish Council recently voted 4-3 in favor of withdrawing from a set of coastal lawsuits filed against oil and gas companies operating in the parish. It would seem only logical to assume that with a 4-3 vote the Council would have successfully ended their involvement with such frivolous litigation, but unfortunately, that is not the case. Procedurally the resolution fell just one vote short of passing. While the resolution failed to pass, the message was sent loud and clear – the council is in favor of jobs, not lawsuits, and residents agree.
During the council meeting, business owners both in and out of the gas industry, from the parish and surrounding areas took to the mic to talk of the crippling effects that these lawsuits have had on their businesses. The people of Plaquemines know that the oil and gas industry is very important to their parish as evidenced by a recent poll showing that nearly 90% of individuals in the parish believe this to be true. The poll went even further, asking specifically about the coastal lawsuits that were filed by the parish and found that 57% of individuals opposed the current lawsuits against oil and gas companies.
If the parish council doesn’t want the lawsuits and the citizens in the parish don’t want the lawsuits, then who does? Trial lawyers. This small group of predatory attorneys have pushed lawsuits from parish to parish, abusing our legal system at the expense of the citizens in these coastal parishes.
These instances of abuse are not just a local issue but something that is devastating the entire state. A national economic and financial analysis firm studied Louisiana and estimated that excessive tort has cost the state $1.1 billion in direct costs, $7.6 million in annual state revenues, $64 million in local revenue, and over 15,000 jobs. The effects that these lawsuits are having on our state and local economies cannot be overstated.
Another question asked in recent polling of Plaquemines parish was whether or not residents thought the parish government was going in the right direction. Nearly 60% responded that local government was going in the wrong the direction. Thankfully we the people can change the direction of our government, and that ability comes in the form of elections.
In a previous column, it was stated that elections have consequences, and that is most certainly true. But we must also view elections as more of an opportunity to build a better state for generations to come. What hangs in the balance is a Louisiana that is plagued by excessive legal burdens, an unfriendly business climate, and a place fewer people want to call home or a state where oil and gas industry thrives, and Texans are moving into our backyards looking for opportunity. I love the state of Louisiana, and I am immensely proud to call it my home. We must continue to work with and engage policy and lawmakers to ensure a vital economy for generations to come and ultimately, a better Louisiana for all.
Gifford Briggs is President of the Louisiana Oil & Gas Association.