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From Iberia to St. Mary, we don’t need misguided legal action

The Daily Iberian

In Louisiana, we have prided ourselves on creating energy for the world for more than a century. Energy production is not only critical to our state’s economy and local communities,

but also essential for our coastal protection efforts.

In fact, the only continuous source of funding for Louisiana’s Coastal Master Plan comes from oil and natural gas production on and off our shores. Since 2017, oil and natural gas companies have generated $415 million directly for state coastal building initiatives, according to the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. In addition, energy leaders like Shell, Chevron and ExxonMobil invest millions of dollars into storm protection and coastal restoration efforts across Louisiana.

Even so, discussions have occurred in St. Mary, St. Martin and Iberia parishes about joining legal action against our state’s largest employer and number one private contributor of coastal restoration dollars—the oil and natural gas industry. The Freeport McMoran “settlement scheme” was created by a small group of trial lawyers and a company that no longer has any footprint or employees in Louisiana. Luckily, our local elected officials saw through the mirage.

For nearly a decade, these trial lawyers have pushed misguided litigation against Louisiana’s energy industry in our parishes and still have nothing to show for it. Terrebonne, Lafourche and Vermilion Parishes have all firmly stated they are against this misguided legal action. Statewide, the “settlement scheme” has failed at the Louisiana legislature twice already and a resolution explicitly opposing the lawsuits has passed both chambers.

Most recently, the St. Mary Parish Council voted down a resolution to support the settlement and refused to take legal action against the industry. During the council meeting, Councilman Scott Ramsey said, “These lawsuits have hurt Louisiana and they are going to hurt St. Mary Parish if we participate in this. The only ones that come out in this deal are the trial attorneys and they stand to make millions.” Parish President David Hanagriff said that he was on record for being against the legal action.

District Attorney Bo Duhe even stated at the meeting, “I said it from the very beginning that I would not file a lawsuit against these companies. My family has had oil and gas production on properties since the 1930’s. I realize how important an industry this is. I realize the benefit it has brought to our communities.”

DA Duhe further added, “I will continue to stay by this statement that I have not filed a lawsuit, I won’t file a lawsuit, here, now or in the future.”

This definitive vote by the St. Mary Parish Council proves that St. Mary Parish is committed to working with Louisiana’s oil and natural gas industry, not against it.

Earlier in September, after originally placing consideration of the settlement on the Parish Council agenda, St. Martin Parish reversed course and refused to consider this legal settlement move at all. This is all great news for the hundreds of thousands of people who depend on the industry everyday for their livelihoods.

The Grow Louisiana Coalition and our 110,000+ supporters thank our St. Mary and St. Martin Parish leaders for opposing this settlement scheme, standing up to lawsuits against the industry and showing parish residents that you stand with the oil and natural gas industry. This was a clear signal to industry opponents: St. Mary and St. Martin Parishes support jobs, not lawsuits.

We look forward to continuing our work so that other parishes may join St. Mary, St. Martin Vermilion, Terrebonne and Lafourche to voice strong support of our industry. Louisiana works when we work together.

Lawsuits not included.

— Marc Ehrhardt, Executive Director, Grow Louisiana Coalition