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06 07, 2014 by Daily Advertiser
The Louisiana legislative session came to a close at 6 p.m. Monday, but one bill, Senate Bill 469 by Sen. Bret Allain, R-Franklin, lingers.
SB 469 addresses the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East lawsuit filed against 97 oil and gas companies. This bill clarifies which governmental entities in the state can file lawsuits related to enforcement of permits under the Coastal Zone Management Act, thus invalidating the SLFPA-E suit.
After extensive public debate and careful consideration, the Legislature enacted a targeted measure designed for the purpose of reining in a single levee district. So, after three months of being vetted, SB 469 was sent to Gov. Bobby Jindal on Monday to be signed.
But all of a sudden, there emerged a coordinated effort of opposition led by Loyola Law School’s Robert Verchick questioning what impact of the passage of SB 469 would have on the state’s claims against BP in the Macondo suit. Jindal agreed to postpone signing the bill out of “an abundance of caution” and allow Attorney General Buddy Caldwell to review.
Caldwell recommended Jindal veto SB 469 and Jindal balked at the suggestion. His chief counsel advised him to sign the bill.
Now let me take this time to explain why SB 469 does not impact the state or parish claims against BP. The bill deals with coastal-use permits; the Deepwater Horizon was located in federal waters and not subject to CZM permitting. The bill is directed at wetlands litigation, not oil spill litigation. In this regard, it preserves existing claims and rights of parishes under present law as to wetland claims.
For claims under other laws, the bill states “any activity subject to permitting … in the coastal area as defined by [the coastal zone management act.]” The Deepwater Horizon was not located in the coastal zone. The bill clearly only applies to activities in the Louisiana Coastal Zone. It, by the clear and unambiguous words of the statute, does not apply to the BP spill. Period.
Now, let me say that lawyers are paid to disagree. The lawyers involved in filing this litigation for SLFPA-E have raised a myriad of practical and legal concerns during the session. Verchick did not raise his concerns until after the bill was passed and being delivered to the governor.
Where was he during the three-month session when everyone else was working on the legislation? Why did he wait until the bill was being delivered to Jindal to raise his last-minute concerns? He could have cured his concerns with a one-sentence amendment. But, he didn’t. He didn’t because the bill does not affect the BP claims.
Verchick’s memo is an 11th-hour political smokescreen. The bill’s author, Allain, could not have stated it more plainly in the Senate Natural Resources Committee: “It’s not our intent with this legislation to affect any claims by the Parishes or the State against BP or anybody else.”
The fact is that SB 469 remains what it purports to be — the Legislature’s appropriate antidote to the SLFPA-E’s irresponsible abuse of authority.
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