The Advocate published an article rife with misleading or outright false information regarding the coastal lawsuits and SB 359.
1.) False: Article claims SB 359 would "deep-six" or "kill" coastal lawsuits
SB 359 does NOT “deep-six” or "kill" the coastal lawsuits. SB 359 does not give anyone immunity or seek to address who is or is not responsible for coastal erosion. SB 359 simply clarifies and reaffirms who has the authority to bring enforcement action over alleged violations of state-issued coastal use permits. There's no question that the State has primary jurisdiction over uses of state concern. There is no question that these claims are going to move forward with the State in its proper role as the primary plaintiffs in this litigation.
This streamlined approach will give the State and the legislature much greater transparency and accountability over the litigation than has been provided thus far through the trial lawyer-led piecemeal approach taken on behalf of a few select parishes. Most importantly, SB 359 will ensure that 100% of any funds recovered under Louisiana’s coastal management program will be spent directly on coastal restoration and hurricane protection, as the legislature intended.
2.) FALSE: Carmouche claims he has "secured" a $100 million settlement with Freeport-McMoRan
According to comments made by John Carmouche in the Advocate, "All 12 parishes have to ratify the settlement for it to go into effect," (Source Link: https://www.nola.com/news/environment/article_7aa8977c-38bd-11ea-b2cf-634a6f97adfe.html). To date, only three of the 12 coastal parishes have adopted resolutions to accept partial settlement of claims with Freeport McMoran. Most importantly, Terrebonne Parish President Gordy Dove sent a letter to the Louisiana Legislature last week stating his strong opposition to the proposed settlement, which means the far-fetched deal is essentially dead.
3.) FALSE: Gen. Honore claims, "They don't want to clean up their mess”
Louisiana’s energy industry has been working to support our economy and our environment for decades. The safe and responsible development of oil and gas resources in Louisiana supports more than 260,000 high-paying jobs and $72 billion in overall economic activity. In addition, the energy industry is one of the largest sources of state funding for public schools, colleges and universities, healthcare and critical infrastructure – contributing more than $2 billion in tax and royalty revenue every year.
Louisiana oil and gas companies also voluntarily invest millions of dollars in community programs across the state, and revenue generated by oil and gas production provides more than one-third of the state's funding for coastal restoration and hurricane protection projects. Today there are more restoration and protection projects underway now than ever before in the State's history.
4.) FALSE: Trial lawyer claims state "would have to use taxpayer dollars to hire outside attorneys to take over the cases"
SB 359 does not prohibit the State from hiring experts and outside lawyers, if necessary, to pursue these cases. Under LA R.S. 42:262/49:259, DNR and the Attorney General can hire attorneys under contingency fee or fee-shifting agreements with proper approval and oversight from the legislature.
"This legislative authorization may come through statutory enactment or by authorization directly from the Legislature through the passage of a concurrent resolution or approval of a contingency-fee contract by the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget (JLCB) when the Legislature is not in session." https://app.lla.state.la.us/llala.nsf/7761902835ED7FC486257D5B00767C50/$FILE/White%20Paper%20-%20Contingency%20Fee%20Contracts.pdf
5.) FALSE: Trial lawyers claim that stopping the parish lawsuits would "jeopardize federal funds"
Sen. Hensgens asked NOAA to review SB 359, and the agency unequivocally concluded: "Based upon the information that NOAA has reviewed… the Office for Coastal Management believes that the changes [proposed in SB 359] would be consistent with CZMA approval requirements… The Office for Coastal Management does not believe the changes proposed in HB520 and SB359 would pose CZMA program approvability issues for the LCRP. States can change the authority of
local governments to implement or enforce a state's coastal management program."
SB 359 will improve and strengthen the statutes that govern Louisiana's coastal program— not undermine it.
6.) False: Locals claim, "They want to take away our rights to sue."
The Parishes have never had control over the regulation or enforcement of uses of State concern. Never in the 40-year history of Louisiana's coastal program have local governments ever sought to assert widespread enforcement action over state-issued coastal use permits. The current litigation represents an unprecedented abuse of the state coastal laws that SB 359 seeks to address.