HOUMA, La. — One of the state's main oil and gas lobby groups asked industry members in Houma Tuesday to help start a campaign to slow down and fend off lawsuits from landowners seeking damages for oil and gas activity.Taking a cue from the hospitality industry's "NEW ORLEANS WILL" campaign, these oil lobbyists have pooled their meager resources into a creating a humble public relations campaign which you can participate in by signing up at their websiste.
Gifford Briggs, Louisiana Oil and Gas Association vice-president, gave a state of the industry presentation to the South Central Industrial Association, calling for a grassroots campaign to curtail so-called legacy lawsuits.
Briggs denounced the lawsuits as frivolous, saying a suit filed last year was for trial lawyers to benefit from million-dollar and billion-dollar verdicts and settlements.
In July the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority–East, which is tasked with managing levees in Orleans, Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes, filed a lawsuit in federal court asking oil companies to fill in canals they say have accelerated coastal erosion and pay a share of $14.6 billion in levee infrastructure that has been built to augment the region's flood protection as land has eroded.
Briggs asked audience members to sign up at a website, changelouisiana.org, and to call their state representatives to encourage legislative action to reduce or stop the lawsuits."Change Louisiana" is an especially delicious name for a number of reasons. It's lazy buzzspeak, of course. But also there's the question of just how Louisiana is being changed. Briggs, apparently would like it if we could Change Louisiana into Texas.
Asked if he thought the oil companies could simply fight the lawsuits in court, Briggs said "we haven't won any of these (legacy) lawsuits."
The stakes for the industry have been growing, and now almost 100 different oil and gas companies are facing tens-of-billions of dollars in litigation.
Part of Briggs' presentation included graphs that correlated a drop in drilling and exploration activities with an increasing number of legacy lawsuits. While he did not discuss how much of the drop in activity could be attributed to concerns over the lawsuits, he said oil and gas companies in Houston have looked to spend money elsewhere.That inconvenient marsh thing, though. Trust us, they're working on that. But that's kind of an opposite of grass taking root thing.
"We have our fair share of roadblocks that are keeping us from doing everything that we can," Briggs said. "We need to ask, what is keeping us from being Texas?"
The actual effect of the lawsuits on energy investment is unknown, said George Hite, Houston-area oil and gas engineering consultant.
"Certainly there have been a number of things that are negatives for Louisiana," Hite said. "Leases are relatively expensive. ... It would seem to me that most of the operators make decisions based on economics. It is more expensive to drill along the coastline because Louisiana is basically marsh and you have to drill using water operations. Texas is different because you have land right up to the coast that you can drill on."