While the Legislature is moving toward derailing a lawsuit filed by a New Orleans-area levee board filed against 97 energy companies for coastal damage, lawmakers appear to be backing off action against similar litigation filed by Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes.
“The parishes are out at this point in time,” said Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego.
The Advocate reports that Rep. Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette, sponsored a bill that would detail a way for local and parish governments to handle environmental cleanup disputes without going to court.
The bill met resistance from local government officials who worried courts might use the procedures to support the oil and gas industry’s contention that local governments had no authority to file a lawsuit alleging noncompliance with a state-issued permit.
Robideaux has delayed bill hearings and said unless a compromise can be reached, he won’t bring up the legislation this session.
“We amended in a way that I thought the parishes would be supportive of the bill,” he said. “At this point the local parish governments have not indicated that they could be supportive.”
The Jefferson and Plaquemines parish lawsuits filed a set of nearly 30 lawsuits, seeking compensation for environmental damage caused during oil and natural gas drilling activities over the years.
“Essentially, Robideaux’s bill is trying to emasculate the authority and autonomy of local governments to take care of the direct needs of our citizens,” said Jefferson Parish President John Young, who led the opposition to Robideaux’s bill.
Young heads up Parishes Against Coastal Erosion. Sixteen of the 20 coastal parishes involved with PACE oppose legislation that would limit that ability. The vast majority of those parishes have not filed their own suits.
Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, is the primary mover of legislation aimed at sidetracking the lawsuits against the oil and gas industry.
Adley’s bill seeking to void a July 2013 lawsuit filed by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority East against oil and gas companies has received Senate backing and awaits consideration in a House committee.
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