Don Briggs, President, Louisiana Oil and Gas Association
The battle between public opinion and truth is under way.
Dozens of editorials, newspaper articles and reports have now been written regarding the South Louisiana Flood Protection Authority East’s (SLFPAE) accusation that the oil and gas industry has caused massive erosion and land loss for the coast of Louisiana.
A Joint Legislative Committee as well as the monthly SLFPAE meeting has been held. The outcome has been much of the same.
Aspiring author John Barry, who is also the vice president of the SLFPAE, has not been able to defend his organization’s true cause or reasoning for this egregious suit.
The obvious negative behind this suit is that thousands of employees across the oil and gas industry of Louisiana will be affected. While Mr. Barry claims that jobs lost will be made up by the suit taking place, citizens from Lake Charles to New Orleans and beyond will be touched by this suit.
Beyond the jobs lost and the hit on the economy, the underlying issue is the idea that Louisiana is becoming known in a category that certainly does not encourage job growth and economic development – Louisiana is now the No. 2 worst legal environment in the country costing $3 billion per year in lost revenue for schools, hospitals and other businesses seeking to conduct business in our state.
Sen. Robert Adley (R-Benton) said it best in his joint committee meeting last week when he stated, “The lawsuit sends the message that you can do business in our state for 50 years and obey all the laws and then we’ll sue you.”
The laws he is referencing are the ones that require the oil and gas companies to mitigate any dredging that takes place in canals along the coast. For several decades, the oil and gas industry has done just that – mitigated any damage that was done while dredging a canal and thus followed all of the laws on the books.
Mr. Barry continues to accuse the industry of breaking laws, but this is simply false. The false accusation is confirmed by the fact that Mr. Barry has not been able to pin point the mentioned “permits” or “laws” that he references.
Garrett Graves, the governor’s chief advisor on coastal affairs, has plainly said that the industry has followed all requirements and has worked well with the state to mitigate any coastal disruption that has taken place over the last several decades.
Specifically, Graves said, “The oil and gas companies have provided land rights and donated money and in-kind services to coastal restoration efforts. This relationship has just frozen. Projects that were actually underway now are going to be impeded because of this lawsuit.”
So if the facts are missing from the SLFPAE’s accusations, and the state has said the industry is doing its part to restore the coast, what are we dealing with now?
Plain and simple, we have an aspiring author in John Barry and a trial lawyer in Gladstone Jones each with a self-serving approach. This lawsuit is a money grab much like the already in place legacy lawsuits that are plaguing the industry today.
Whatever the outcome of this absurd suit, the oil and gas industry will keep to task by producing consumer-ready resources, creating jobs for our workforce, and remaining committed to the safety of our communities and the preservation of our environment to which we have been entrusted.