Two legislative bills dealing with the oil and gas lawsuits in Louisiana have gone their separate ways. One moved onto the Senate floor, and the other didn’t make it out of the Senate Natural Resources Committee. Both bills were introduced by Sen. Robert Adley.
The bill that made it out of committee was SB 667. It has the support of the oil and gas industry, Gov. Bobby Jindal and many groups supporting landowners’ rights. The bill says that unless evidence to the contrary can be presented, the state courts must accept that the Department of Natural Resources’ plans for cleanup are the most reasonable. The judges in state courts must also instruct the jury about the new bill, if it passes. If the case is dismissed, then the bill also allows the defendants to collect court costs and attorney fees.
These provisions in the bill were not as highly debated on in committee as one that would make landowners prove that the defendants’ actions that resulted in the pollution, destruction or injury to the land were excessive or unreasonable. Those actions must have been deemed so by the laws that were in place when the excessive or unreasonable actions happened.
The bill that stalled in committee was SB 467. It would have required that any court case where a defendant makes an admission of liability be suspended. Currently, an admission of liability results in the Department of Natural Resources being ordered to come up with a plan to repair the damage. That plan must then be approved by the court. The committee voted 4-2 in stalling the bill. The majority felt that it would add more time to the lawsuits that have already been delayed for one reason or another.
Environmental issues are often complex and require legal action in order to see results. An environmental attorney can provide more information about seeking answers through the civil courts.
Source: The Times-Picayune, “One bill restricting oil and gas ‘legacy lawsuits’ forwarded to Senate floor, second fails in committee Wednesday” Mark Schleifstein, Apr. 09, 2014