The oil and gas industry has been suffering in Louisiana for years. A combination of low oil prices and a hostile legal climate has shuttered oil wells and coast thousands of Louisiana workers their jobs.
But you would not have known that if you watched the second gubernatorial debate on Louisiana Public Broadcasting. The issue was never brought up either by questioners or the candidates themselves.
Oh, the issue was also not brought up in the first gubernatorial debate as well.
This issue seems more relevant today than usual because of Freeport-McMoRan’s to settle the coastal erosion lawsuits filed against by coastal Louisiana parishes. Here’s more from Nola.com:
Lawyers representing coastal Louisiana parishes have negotiated their first settlement with one of the oil and gas companies accused in court of damaging the state’s coast, a potentially ground-breaking move in the effort to find funds for coastal restoration.
The settlement, with mining giant Freeport-McMoRan Inc. and its subsidiaries, will result in payments totaling up to $100 million in cash and environmental credits over many years, according to John Carmouche, an attorney with the Baton Rouge-based firm of Talbot, Carmouche & Marcello.
Linda Hayes, the vice president of communications for Freeport, confirmed the settlement agreement.
The deal represents a possible breakthrough in the years-long push by coastal parishes, and the lawyers representing them, to force oil and gas companies to contribute toward restoring land lost to the Gulf of Mexico over the past century.
The lawsuits charge that oil and gas firms failed to follow state law in drilling wells, building canals, disposing of waste and restoring the land and wetlands to the condition they were in before oil and gas operations began.
It’s unclear whether other oil and gas firms might follow Freeport’s lead. The company’s wells account for only 4% of the wells drilled in the coastal zone since 1911, Carmouche said, suggesting that the $100 million could be just a fraction of any broader settlements, should they come to pass.
Full terms of the settlement weren’t made public. Carmouche said money collected from Freeport would have to be spent by the state or local governments to restore coastal marshes and wetlands.
Tonight would’ve been a good night to bring this up. Freeport-McMoRan is definitely not returning and this $100 million is best seen as an exit fee. Eventually, these lawsuits will drive many if not most of Louisiana’s oil and gas companies out of the state. Those companies will take those high-paying jobs with them. Texas will be the beneficiary of this.
Tonight’s debate would’ve been a good opportunity to call out Governor John Bel Edwards for not supporting oil and gas by opposing these coastal erosion lawsuits, along with higher taxes and regulations that are harming the industry. Instead, Eddie Rispone and the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association endorsed candidate, Ralph Abraham let JBE off the hook. This was a major mistake by both campaigns.