Louisiana GOP Governor Bobby Jindal Signs Bill Banning Lawsuits Against Oil And Gas Industry

Oil fields; image@BlessOilfield

Oil fields; image@BlessOilfield

It’s official. Republicans love oil and gas companies so much that they’re willing to ban people from filing lawsuits filed against them.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal signed a bill into law on Friday that is designed to kill a current lawsuit against 97 oil and gas companies that was filed by the New Orleans regional levee board Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East. According to The Times-Picayune,

“The levee board lawsuit demands that energy companies either fix damage caused by dredging canals and pipeline channels and other actions, or pay the authority for damages that can’t be restored.”

In response, the oil and gas industry ran to their Republican puppets in the Louisiana state government and demanded they do something to kill the lawsuit. So, the GOP sponsored SB 469 to make it happen. The Republican-dominated legislature passed the bill in both chambers and Jindal gleefully signed it.

In a statement, Jindal said

“This bill will help stop frivolous lawsuits and create a more fair and predictable legal environment, and I am proud to sign it into law.”

By “fair and predictable,” Jindal means fair for only Big Oil and predictable as in the law will only favor Big Oil.

Environmental experts joined local parishes and the state Attorney General in condemning the new law, which they had asked Jindal to veto. They oppose the bill because it could be used by BP, and any other oil and gas company to escape responsibility for causing destructive spills that harm communities and the environment. Basically, the oil industry could no longer be sued by local agencies nor could individuals or businesses seek justice in court.

St. Bernard Parish President Dave Peralta reviewed the bill with Jefferson Parish President John Young and their own attorneys and came to that very conclusion.

“After carefully reading the bill and consulting with various attorneys, we determined that this could not only affect our lawsuit already filed against BP, but also could hinder our citizens’ individual lawsuits and possible future class-action lawsuits,” Peralta told The Times-Picayune.

That same conclusion was echoed by former Vice President of the levee board, John Barry. Barry lost his position on the board because Jindal removed him as punishment for pushing for the lawsuit in the first place. But that hasn’t changed Barry’s mind about the bill, which he says will negatively impact Louisiana and open the state up as a consequence-free playground for oil executives.

“If there is a pipeline rupture in the coastal zone, the ability of local governments to litigate will be limited,” Barry said. “I’m actually more concerned about the future than BP litigation.”

Even former General Russel Honore opposes the bill for the same reasons.

The bill specifically states:

” The provisions of this Act shall be applicable to all claims existing or actions pending on the Act’s effective date and all claims arising or actions filed on or after that date.”

In short, the law could indeed be used by BP to stop lawsuits seeking compensation for damages caused in 2010 and would let every oil and gas company off the hook for spills in the past, present, and future. Under the new law, only state and federal authorities can take the oil industry to court. But considering the fact that conservatives are in charge of the Louisiana state government and are deep in the pockets of Big Oil, it’s more likely that only the federal government would act to make sure oil and gas companies take responsibility for catastrophes they cause. And if Republicans somehow capture the US Senate and White House, it’s a certainty that Louisiana citizens would be left to suffer the effects of spills without any legal recourse whatsoever. Without the ability to take oil companies to court themselves, all Big Oil has to do is shove the new law in their faces and laugh all the way to the bank as oil poisons the environment, communities, and the people who live in them.