Rep. Joel Robideaux’s House Bill 862 will rob parish governments of the ability to sue the oil and gas industry for permit violations.
|Rep. Joel Robideaux|
The bill, which is slated to go before the House Civil Law & Procedure Committee at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, will make the state Department of Natural Resources the go-to for parish governments seeking to file suit against oil and gas companies for permit violations. The bill, essentially, is a response to lawsuits filed by three parishes against the industry for damages to the coastal marshes.
Robideaux’s bill — a joint endeavor with the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association — recently drew criticism from local members of the Green Army, who protested outside his Lafayette office on Friday.
"Our constitutions, both state and federal, have been created for checks and balances and not singular decision making," writes Save Lake Peigneur advocate and Green Army activist Nara Crowley in an email sent out Monday. "How many parishes are aware of this bill which takes their decision making away? Why was this bill created? What has failed previously that this bill is required?"
John Barry, former vice-president of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East and a principle backer of its lawsuit against 97 oil and gas companies, says Robideaux’s bill is a carbon copy of Sen. Robert Adley’s SB 469 — an attempt to stop the levee board’s lawsuit in its tracks while also giving DNR the final say on lawsuits against the oil and gas industry.
“Essentially this bill takes away the right of local governments to enforce the law by handing everything to the Department of Natural Resources — the agency which has failed to enforce these same legal requirements for 35 years,” says Barry in a prepared statement. “If DNR had enforced existing laws and permits, there would be no lawsuit and we would have saved hundreds of square miles of our cost. The problem is DNR has two conflicting tasks — to promote the oil and gas industry and to regulate it. That same conflict in one federal agency led directly to the BP spill. On the Louisiana coast, it has contributed to an even bigger disaster — just a slower moving and less dramatic one.”
The House Civil Law & Procedure Committee consists of the following reps:
Neil Abramson (New Orleans)
Nancy Landry (Lafayette)
Jeff Arnold (Algiers)
John Bel Edwards (Amite)
Randal Gaines (LaPlace)
Raymond Garofalo (Chalmette / St. Bernard)
Cameron Henry (Metairie)
Mike Huval (Breaux Bridge)
Patrick Jefferson (Homer)
Gregory Miller (Norco)
Clay Schexnayder (Sorrento / Gonzales)
Robert Shadoin (Ruston)
Alfred Williams (Baton Rouge)