Coastal groups provide statement on SB440, bill aimed at coastal parishes’ oil and gas lawsuits
Responsible parties should be held accountable for damages that they caused
(NEW ORLEANS – May 27, 2020) Louisiana’s Legislature is currently considering SB440, a bill that would significantly impact ongoing lawsuits on behalf of Louisiana coastal parishes seeking to hold responsible parties accountable for damages done to wetlands within their jurisdictions. The Senate decided not to take up SB359 during this session, however, key aspects of this bill have now been added to SB440 which is making its way through the House. The bill would retroactively limit a parish’s ability to take legal action for most damages occurring within its coastal zone and instead consolidate this authority with the state’s attorney general and secretary of Department of Natural Resources. The purpose of this bill is to stop lawsuits that were filed several years ago, by parishes seeking damages from oil and gas companies whose operations they allege destroyed and damaged coastal wetlands. The lawsuits are working their way through the court system and are the subject of settlement discussions with some companies.
Restore the Mississippi River Delta – a coalition of national and local conservation organizations committed to coastal Louisiana restoration including Environmental Defense Fund, the National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation – issued the following statement in response:
“There is broad scientific consensus oil and gas activities caused damages to our coast. A court of law is the appropriate place to determine whether individual companies bear some of the responsibility, and there is a well-established process for citizens, through their local parish governments, to seek redress of damages. Louisiana’s Legislature should not short-circuit the judicial process and deprive local governments and coastal citizens of their rights.
“Our groups recognize that not all oil and gas companies operating in Louisiana are responsible for the damages done over the course of a century. At the same time, a short flight over our coast clearly shows the extent of the danger we face. Coastal land loss makes our communities, infrastructure and wildlife less secure in the face of saltwater intrusion and increased flood risk.
“Louisiana is losing land, and we’re losing time. It’s vital that an impartial judicial process be allowed to proceed to determine responsibility for specific damages — and that any fines imposed go to the urgent task of restoring our coast. We can then move forward together with making our communities, infrastructure and wildlife more secure in the face of land loss and sea level rise.”
Jacques Hebert, Environmental Defense Fund, 504.250.3699, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lauren Bourg, National Audubon Society, 225.776.9838, email@example.com
Amanda Moore, National Wildlife Federation, 504.442.2702, firstname.lastname@example.org
James Karst, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, 504.220.7899, email@example.com
John Lopez, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, 504.421.7348, firstname.lastname@example.org
About Restore the Mississippi River Delta:
Restore the Mississippi River Delta is working to protect people, wildlife and jobs by reconnecting the river with its wetlands. As our region faces the crisis of threatening land loss, we offer science-based solutions through a comprehensive approach to restoration. Composed of conservation, policy, science and outreach experts from Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, the National Wildlife Federation, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, we are located in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Washington, D.C.; and around the United States. Learn more at MississippiRiverDelta.org and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.