Louisiana Political News Wire
Landowners, energy firms advance competing bills in 'legacy lawsuit' dispute
BATON ROUGE -- Landowners have answered the oil and gas industry with their preferred rewrite of the rules governing the lawsuits property owners file against energy firms alleging environmental damages left behind after exploration and production leases are up. The landowner version, which the Senate Natural Resources Committee passed 3-2 Thursday, is similar to the industry-backed bill that cleared the House of Representatives a day before. Jimmy Faircloth, a former executive counsel to Gov. Bobby Jindal and the lead negotiator for Weyerhauser Corp. and other major landowners described Senate Bill 731 by Bret Allain, R-Franklin, as an honest attempt to reach a fair compromise. But industry players -- and their most powerful advocate in the dispute, U.S. Sen. David Vitter -- say Allain's effort is not good enough. Vitter, who has described the so-called "legacy lawsuits" as a "trial-lawyer bonanza," blasted the measure as a sleight of hand by Faircloth and the plaintiffs bar. With five weeks remaining in the legislative session, all sides say they want to rewrite existing laws to speed the cleanup of old oilfields while shielding Louisiana-based energy firms from shouldering more than their share of the costs. Landowners, meanwhile, insist that they not lose the ability to get a fair jury trial as they seek to be compensated for harm to their property. The multimillion-dollar question is how to reach those goals.
You may view this story online at http://www.lanewslink.com/archives.php?id=25396.