I write in response to Don Briggs’ comments which appeared in the Sept. 26 edition of The Advocate. Briggs is once again complaining about legacy lawsuits, an issue that without which Briggs would seemingly not have a job. Let’s be clear: Briggs is a lobbyist for Big Oil — an industry that is essential to Louisiana but also one that has a history when it comes to pollution and coastal erosion. If anyone has doubts about this history, I encourage them to visit http://www.cleanwaterandland.com, view the pictures in the gallery, and decide for themselves.
Regarding Briggs’ reference to the so-called “percent” of cases having no evidence of actual damages, this figure amounts to “fuzzy math” and has no bearing on reality.
Oil pollution lawsuits arise from the more than 18,000 unlined and open toxic waste pits left behind by the industry, some of which are the size of football fields. The percent figure has to do with the information in the possession of the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, not the information in the possession of the landowners pursuing the case.
Simply put, LDNR’s files are not up to date and contain errors.
The damage in pollution cases can be proven in a number of ways — the simplest being by photographic evidence of open sludge pits, drums oozing chemical waste, oil spills on the ground, and rotting equipment. LDNR does not keep track of this type of proof. Their only obligation is to review soil and water samples, which must be collected by and paid for by the landowner, a process that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. The average landowner does not have hundreds of thousands of dollars, but he can afford to take pictures of the obvious contamination bubbling to the surface. While pictures are good enough for judges and juries, they are apparently not good enough for Briggs. As the saying goes, “There are none so blind as those who will not see.”
It’s time for us to stop bickering about the legitimacy of legacy lawsuits, roll up our sleeves and start cleaning up the legacy of pollution that contaminates our groundwater, poisons our seafood, and threatens our future. A clean environment encourages oil companies and other businesses to come to Louisiana. If these companies have a clean environment in which to operate, they don’t have to set aside money to conduct cleanups in the future. By the same token, a clean environment is good for tourism, great for the seafood industry and essential to our coastal restoration efforts.
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