Letter: Oil industry suits threaten economy

Louisiana’s economy is under attack.

The oil and gas industry has been the significant driver in our state’s economy for more than 100 years. However, that is now in jeopardy. The filing of “legacy lawsuits” has threatened to bring the growth and expansion of the oil and gas industry in Louisiana to a screeching halt. These lawsuits, which are often brought with absolutely no evidence of environmental damage, claim to seek environmental cleanup of old drilling sites.

However, the trial lawyers that file these suits often go to great lengths to actually prevent cleanup. When courts render judgments in these cases, the trial lawyers laugh all the way to the bank with not one dollar actually dedicated to “cleanup” of the alleged contamination. These suits are not about environmental cleanup; they are about money.

As a result of these and other similar lawsuits, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce now lists Louisiana as having the second worst legal climate in the nation. A recent LSU Center for Energy Studies report concluded that as a result of these legacy lawsuits, Louisiana has already experienced $6.7 billion in decreased drilling expenditures, lost $10.5 billion in economic output and seen more than 30,000 jobs go to other states with more than $1.5 billion in wages.

Billions of dollars are being taken out of our economy and out of the pockets of working families in Louisiana. Billions of dollars also are being taken away from state and local government which could have been used for education, infrastructure improvements, law enforcement etc.

Our neighboring states have taken steps to rein in these economy-killing lawsuits while politically connected law firms in Louisiana, with the help of politicians such as Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, have left Louisiana at the mercy of these trial lawyers. The repeated mantra: “The oil and gas industry will not leave Louisiana.”

We are now seeing this statement may not be true. When investors are scouring the world looking for places to make a financial commitment, they are repeatedly bypassing Louisiana primarily as result of our legal climate.

When you hear trial lawyers defending legacy lawsuits and politicians such as Foster Campbell attacking the oil and gas industry, remember that they are attacking you, your friends, your family, your local schools, your local business owners and the entire state. This is not an issue that is confined to a courtroom or the state capitol. It trickles down to every aspect of our communities and families.

Alan Seabaugh

Louisiana state representative, District 5

Shreveport