Lafayette Parish School Board won’t pursue suits against energy producers

(The Daily Advertiser) – The Lafayette Parish School Board will not file any lawsuits against energy producers that have operated in Louisiana.

In addition, the board formally declared Wednesday its opposition to Gov. John Bel Edwards’ request for parishes to file such lawsuits.

The board voted in favor of the resolution stating those intentions Wednesday. Board member Tehmi Chassion abstained from voting. Board member Mary Morrison was absent.

Edwards has been encouraging Louisiana parishes to file suit against oil and gas companies to recover costs for coastal restoration.

Board member Erick Knezek, who proposed the resolution, said he did not want the school system to do anything to cause more struggles for oil and gas companies.

“We don’t need to be a part of threatening the prosperity of our lifeline industry,” Knezek said. “Litigation typically ends in no one winning. That money is not going to result in a more robust coastline.”

According to the resolution, the oil and gas industry has contributed more than $4 billion to Louisiana coastal projects since 2009, and plans to invest up to $200 million a year to support further projects, beginning in 2017.

Knezek said Louisiana’s coastal problems are caused by the federal levee system, not oil and gas producers.

Board member Elroy Broussard questioned why oil companies shouldn’t pay for damage they cause to the state’s coastline.

“I just can’t understand why they leave the land so messed up and agree not to fix it,” Broussard said.

Knezek cautioned that the entire industry shouldn’t be stereotyped “because of a few bad actors.”

“The oil and gas industry did not cause what we are seeing in southwest Louisiana,” Knezek said. “Also, how much of that money goes back to coastal restoration? For these legacy lawsuits, very little goes back. There’s no recourse that requires a landowner to use the money to clean up their land. The environment doesn’t benefit. This is a money grab.”

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