Senate Committee Advances Legacy Bill

The Senate Natural Resources Committee argued Wednesday whether a bill regarding legacy lawsuits would streamline or delay the clean-up of contaminated oilfield sites, eventually siding with the latter and killing SB 467 by Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton. Lawmakers did, however, advance another of Adley's bills on the matter that represents a compromise of sorts.

Under the deferred bill, if a defendant in a lawsuit admitted liability, court proceedings would be delayed while the Department of Natural Resources worked up a clean-up plan, which could take up to 145 days. The Legislature enacted similar legislation in 2012, but courts have allowed proceedings against other defendants to continue even if one party admitted liability.

Arguing against the bill that was backed by the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, Sen. Bret Allain, R-Franklin, said, “Stays don’t promote clean-ups. They promote delays.”

While the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry supported SB 467, it was not involved in drafting the measure. LABI was, however, involved in negotiating Adley's SB 667, which was approved by the committee. It incorporates a broader compromise between oil companies and landowners over legacy suits that the governor announced two weeks ago.

As the bill moves to the full Senate, it pulls back on the level of damages that can be claimed as part of a legacy lawsuit—and only after proof is provided by plaintiffs. Landowners countered that the compromise allows oil companies to get off the hook too easily, even though retroactive language was removed from the proposal.

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