Baton Rouge, La. -
Aides to Governor Bobby Jindal say a compromise has been reached by the Department of Natural Resources, landowners, oil and gas industry representatives and key legislators involved in solving the legacy lawsuit issue.
A news release from the Governor's Office says Jindal's point-person on the suits, Natural Resources Secretary Scott Angelle, brokered the compromise, which accomplishes the goals of accelerating environmental clean-up from exploration and production activities and ensuring that the party responsible for environmental damage is actually held responsible for cleaning it up.
"To reach a compromise, it was important that we came to a balance that enables us to continue to lead the country in energy production and also be good stewards of the environment," Angelle says in the news release. "This compromise provides for transparency in the process, accelerates clean-up of the environment and protects innocent parties from punitive damages."
The statement lists the following as key points for compromise:
- In order to accelerate clean-up, the compromise will allow a party to admit responsibility for environmental damage according to a regulatory standard without having to admit liability for private damages.
- Once a party admits responsibility, the Department of Natural Resources will be charged with structuring a feasible plan that will protect the environment, public health, safety and welfare of the state.
- The compromise requires oversight of the feasible plan by the Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources, Secretary of the Department of Environmental Quality and the Commissioner of Agriculture.
- Both the feasible plan and the comments of each agency are admissible in court
- During the design of the feasible plan – and to guarantee, transparency – no employee, contractor or representative of the state shall have any ex parte communication.
- For any party that admits responsibility, they waive the right to enforce contractual rights to indemnification for punitive damages caused by the responsible party's acts or omission.
Louisiana Oil and Gas Association President Don Briggs is quoted in the statement saying, "Over the course of the last twelve months, the Jindal Administration and stakeholders have worked to find a solution to curb the legacy lawsuit problem in Louisiana. Today, we reached an agreement on proposed legacy lawsuit reform legislation that we believe will ensure timely regulatory clean up of the land while protecting a landowner's right to recover damages."