Given all that is happening in the world today, voters may not be paying much attention to "down-ballot" political elections. However, for Louisiana’s oil and gas industry, two of the most important races are taking place right now in Acadiana. Last year District Attorney Keith Stutes, representing the 15th Judicial District Court, which comprises Acadia, Lafayette, and Vermilion parishes, announced his decision not to run for re-election. Two candidates, Don Landry and Dan Landry III, have qualified to replace Stutes. Meanwhile, in the 16th JDC, which includes Iberia, St. Martin and St. Mary parishes, incumbent DA Bo Duhe is being challenged by Lori Landry, a former district judge who recently left the bench to run for the office.
Acadiana voters will decide both races this fall. There's a lot at stake for everyone— especially the hardworking men and women in the oil and gas industry— so voters must look past the campaign rhetoric and really get to know where the candidates stand on important issues.
For example, it is well known that 15th JDC DA Stutes took unprecedented action in 2016 by hiring private attorneys on contingency fee contracts to file lawsuits against a slew of Louisiana oil and gas producers. What is not known is how the new crop of candidates will handle this issue: do they support the lawsuits? Will they continue the legal contracts? Or will they drop the destructive legal attacks?
Many of the companies targeted in these meritless lawsuits have employed generations of Louisianans and paid millions of dollars in royalties to state and local governments over decades. They also invest heavily in projects and programs that are helping to protect and strengthen our coast. In fact, CPRA will have more projects under construction this year than ever before in our state's history, primarily due to ongoing industry investments.
These are just some of the reasons why the coastal lawsuits are unanimously opposed by the Vermilion Parish Policy Jury, Iberia Parish Council, the Greater Iberia Chamber of Commerce, Iberia Parish Levee, Hurricane & Conservation District, the St. Mary Industrial Group, and many others.
It should come as no surprise that suing Louisiana's number one job creators is damaging to both the state's economy and working families. The non-partisan Pelican Institute for Public Policy recently published a report estimating that Louisiana loses between $44 million to $113 million and at least 2,000 jobs every year because of coastal lawsuits.
It's time to abandon these ill-fated lawsuits and bring Acadiana back to a place that welcomes job creators and seekers alike.
That's why the race for District Attorney in Vermilion is so crucial. Three parishes in the heart of Louisiana's oil and gas industry have a chance to send a message that the people are tired of Louisiana's sue-first approach to everything. The people of Vermilion Parish have already been represented by someone who doesn't stand for their interests, and now have an opportunity to right that wrong. But first, they deserve to know: where the candidates for District Attorney stand on the issue of coastal lawsuits?
Our future hangs in the balance.