Louisiana’s top attorney has recommended that Gov. Bobby Jindal veto a bill aimed at killing a lawsuit filed by a southeast Louisiana levee board against 97 oil and gas companies over damage to the state’s wetlands.
However, Jindal’s executive counsel, Thomas Enright Jr., disagreed with such a course of action.
“The language proposed in SB 469 is vaguely broad and since it deals with the elimination of causes and rights of actions which protect Louisiana, I recommend that it be vetoed,” Attorney General James Caldwell told the governor in a letter dated June 3.
“In the coming year perhaps the proponents of the bill can tailor legislation more narrowly drawn,” Caldwell said.
Jindal, who opposed the lawsuit filed last year by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East, agreed to delay signing the measure earlier this week at Caldwell’s request.
Opponents of the measure, designed to kill the lawsuit, circulated a memo from legal experts who said the bill might unintentionally affect state and local governments’ claims against BP over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, prompting Caldwell’s request to delay signing it into law.
The lawsuit, now in federal court, says drilling and dredging by oil, gas and pipeline companies are partially to blame for the degradation of coastal wetlands that serve as a natural hurricane buffer for New Orleans. Proponents say it could bring billions of dollars needed to fund the state coastal-restoration effort.
Opponents call the suit a needless attack on a valuable industry and a windfall for trial lawyers. Jindal has also said it undermines the state’s coastal restoration work, which includes cooperative efforts with oil companies.
“Simply put, this piece of legislation was fully debated, was the subject of intense media coverage throughout the session and now represents the Louisiana Legislature’s intent to make absolutely clear that irresponsible lawsuits … are unwelcome in this state,” Enright wrote in his response to Caldwell.
“We are satisfied that the concerns expressed by your office are the same as those offered by the opponents of the bill during the session and that those concerns were properly considered and publicly debated at length,” Enright said.
Jindal has until June 22 to veto the measure, should he decide that’s necessary. If he takes no action, the bill becomes law without his signature.