Our Views: Suit’s terms evolving

Attorneys who are suing nearly 100 energy companies on behalf of a New Orleans-area levee board have agreed to take less money if the suit succeeds. They’ve also agreed to terms that should help the flood control board, rather than the attorneys, better control the lawsuit’s future.

We welcome news of those changes, which were announced at a recent meeting of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East.

But those changes would not have happened without public pressure on the board to secure a better arrangement with the lawyers handling the suit.

That reality underscores the importance of giving the public a seat at the table as critical government policy questions are being considered.

Unfortunately, that didn’t happen as the flood control board members conceived this suit.

The concept of the suit was developed outside of public view, and the attorneys handling the suit were hired without benefit of an open, competitive process. That’s not the way to build public confidence in the board’s decisions. Even with the modifications terms of the suit, the public cannot be confident that it got the best terms for legal representation.

The suit alleges that energy companies severely damaged Louisiana’s coastline, and it seeks remedies from the companies because the weakened coastline has aggravated flooding problems. We agree that oil and gas exploration has been a big factor in advancing coastal erosion.

But that’s an ongoing crisis that demands broad public engagement, not closed-door maneuvers.

A culture of behind-the-scenes deals helped created Louisiana’s environmental mess. Foregoing transparency for the sake of expedience isn’t the way to cure the problem.