ABBEVILLE, La. — The Vermilion Parish Police Jury voted unanimously Monday to request that District Attorney Donald Landry to dismiss lawsuits filed years ago by the previous DA, which sought to force oil companies to repair the damage they allegedly have done to the Louisiana coastline.
According to Wayne Touchet with VPPJ, the jury adopted a resolution to make the request to the DA.
Several years ago, seven local-level governments filed more than 40 lawsuits against more than 200 oil companies, accusing the companies of damaging Louisiana's coast by violating state law and permits. The lawsuits could be worth billions if the governments win their efforts to force the oil companies to clean up the mess they're accused of making.
Then-DA Keith Stutes filed several suits, with and without support from local governments. The Vermilion Parish Police Jury voted against the lawsuits.
"While we all recognize the tremendous impact oil and gas activities have had on our local economy, every person who has ever fished, hunted and enjoyed the natural beauty of Vermilion Parish is aware of the environmental issues caused by oil and gas activities,” 15th Judicial District Attorney Keith Stutes said at the time.
Stutes has since retired and been replaced by Don Landry.
According to John Carmouche, an attorney representing several parishes in the lawsuits, who was present at Monday's meeting, dismissing the lawsuits will be unfortunate for the constituents of Vermilion Parish.
Carmouche says that since the state of Louisiana has already intervened in the coastal lawsuits, so if the DA dismisses Vermilion Parish's lawsuit then it would still proceed, but without Vermilion Parish.
"If Vermilion Parish dismisses, then they will not have a seat at the table," said Carmouche. "They will lose their right to participate in the outcome."
He adds that this could mean that if any money were awarded as a result of the lawsuit, then Vermilion Parish would lose the opportunity to decide how that money would be spent on coastal restoration efforts.
Following the meeting mondat night at the Vermilion Parish Courthouse, Grow Louisiana Coalition issued a statement on the vote by the VPPJ; it's a lobbying group aimed at supporting the oil industry in Louisiana. It was formed "to raise awareness and adjust public perception" about Louisiana's oil and natural gas industry, it's website says.
Grow Louisiana Coalition Executive Director Marc Ehrhardt
“With its unanimous vote to support dismissing coastal lawsuits, the Vermilion Parish Police Jury has taken another step toward standing up for Louisiana’s working coast and the community that relies on it.
Coastal lawsuits do nothing more than impede our oil and gas industry’s coastal restoration efforts and economic progress, while also directly harming the hardworking people in Vermilion Parish who rely on the energy industry to support themselves and their families.
The success of Louisiana’s oil and gas industry directly impacts funding and resources available for local communities, especially those throughout Vermilion Parish. The Vermilion Parish Police Jury’s support is a strong indicator to other parishes that citizens should not stand for these senseless lawsuits that only line trial lawyers’ pockets and divert necessary funding from coastal investments.”