As a proud third-generation oilfield man, I’m writing to thank the Vermilion Parish Policy Jury and every worker, family, and taxpayer they represent for standing with Louisiana oil and gas.
When my grandfather started Pelican Well Service in 1956, he could never have imagined that trial lawyers would go after operators for lawfully producing energy under the rules that were in place at the time. And yet that’s exactly where we are today. Legacy and coastal lawsuits have run countless operators out of business. Just look at the evidence. Rig counts are at historic lows. Jobs and investments are moving out of state. The end to this legal warfare is nowhere in sight, and it's all because a small group of fancy lawyers is out to make a buck.
My family business, Moncla Marine, is just one of the many victims of this hostile legal climate. From 2010 to 2014, we operated 11 workover barge rigs, employing over 300 workers and providing annual payrolls to Louisianans in excess of $17 million. Today, that business is completely shut down. Zero employees. Zero revenue. And our barge rigs stacked at the Gulf Coast Marine Fabricators dock at the Port of Vermillion have been sold for pennies on the dollar.
As one of the owners of Gulf Coast Marine Fabricators employing more than 70 people based at the Port of Vermillion, I know many workers and families indirectly employed by industry have felt this pain too. That’s why I am proud to support the police jury members who are standing up and doing the right thing.
In 2016, the former district attorney (DA) sided with the lawyers and filed a coastal lawsuit on behalf of the parish—over the strong objection of the police jury, basically taking Vermilion Parish’s voice away. Today, there is a new DA, Don Landry, who promises to give Vermilion Parish their voice back. Soon the new Police Jury will consider a resolution to once again oppose the frivolous lawsuits targeting Louisiana oil and gas companies.
I hope you will join me in supporting the police jury members who are taking action and standing with our industry. I would urge you to also join us in opposing the bogus settlement scheme that’s being promoted by trial lawyers and the legislation they are pursuing at the Capitol this Legislative Session.
SB233 and its twin in the House, HB569 are trying to reconfigure Louisiana’s entire coastal program so they can settle meritless coastal lawsuits with a single defendant company. If passed, SB 233 and HB569 would implement a flawed settlement scheme that would divert funds away from coastal restoration.
Even worse is that SB233 and HB569 try to create an ill-defined “environmental credit” scheme that could put our coast further at risk. Under these flawed proposals, the settling defendant would make an initial cash payment. Some portion of that would be used to fund restoration projects. Those restoration activities would generate “environmental credits,” which would be owned and managed by the state. Eventually, the state would sell those credits to other companies. Then the state would have to use the revenue generated from the sale of these “environmental credits” to reimburse the settling defendant. Doesn't that smell like a quasi money-laundering scheme? Don't believe for a second that this is a legitimate attempt to restore our coast.
Rather than enabling these trial lawyer-invented schemes, state officials should be working with industry to support oil and gas production, which will create much-needed jobs and generate even more funding for our coast. Over the last five years, Louisiana oil and natural gas companies generated more than $230 million for coastal restoration and hurricane protection – accounting for over 33% of Louisiana’s funding for restoration and protection projects. Meanwhile, not one inch of wetlands has been restored as a result of these meritless coastal lawsuits or the convoluted settlement structure proposed by SB 233 and HB 569.
Again, I ask you to join me in standing with oil and gas and ending this ridiculous legal warfare in legacy and coastal lawsuits.
President - Louisiana Oil & Gas Association
Partner - Gulf Coast Marine Fabricators