Attempt to reroute oil suit bill fails

The Louisiana House rejected an attempt Monday to change the path of legislation written to derail a controversial lawsuit against oil and gas companies.

State Rep. Walt Leger III, D-New Orleans, argued Senate Bill 469 belongs before the House Committee on Civil Law and Procedure. SB469 is on track for the House Natural Resources Committee.

“If we had a bill about a car running over a cow, we wouldn’t send that to the Agriculture Committee ... This bill is intended to address obligations, cause of actions subject to permitting. It deals with altering the rights of a government entity,” Leger said.

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Gordon Dove, R-Houma, objected to the venue change, characterizing it as an attempt to kill the legislation and keep the lawsuit alive.

Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East commissioners claim in the lawsuit that 97 oil and gas companies failed to repair damage they caused and contributed to eroding the marshes that helped weaken immunity to hurricane storm surges.

SB469 would allow only governmental entities operating under the Coastal Zone Management Act the ability to sue on issues involving permits in the coastal zone.

That’s the state Department of Natural Resources, the state attorney general, governments of parishes with coastal plans and the district attorneys for those parishes without a plan.

SLFPA-E would not be allowed to sue under the provisions of SB469.

If the legislation becomes law, one of the parities could cite the new law to move to dismiss the lawsuits.

“Please allow it to go where it was referred to. I guess it’s being moved to civil law in an effort to kill the bill,” Dove said.

The House rejected Leger’s motion, with 43 voting for it and 49 voting against.

SB469 is scheduled to go to the House Natural Resources Committee, as originally planned.