Landry’s Settlement Decision Earns Rebuke from Oil and Gas Industry

NEW ORLEANS – Attorney General Jeff Landry has announced he plans to publicly authorize a $100 million settlement with oil and gas company Freeport McMoRan Inc.

A completed deal, negotiated by Baton Rouge attorney John Carmouche, would mean that parishes and the state will end their lawsuit against the company in return for money to spend on coastal restoration. The Carmouche law firm has accused Freeport and 41 other oil and gas companies of destroying coastal wetlands and marshes through their drilling and exploration activities.

“This is real, and it’s a big deal,” Carmouche told the daily paper Wednesday about Landry’s move. “It’s also an important day when this big deal can be done in a nonpartisan way and respect the economy, energy companies and the environment all at the same time.”

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The deal is far from done, but the decision by Landry, considered friendly to the oil and gas industry, puts it one step closer to completion.

Industry reps have responded to the news with criticism.

“Only politicians and lawyers have seen this supposed settlement,” said Marc Ehrhardt, the executive director of the Grow Louisiana Coalition. “It has been done in secret. Whenever a politician or lawyer says ‘Trust me. It’s good for you,’ it doesn’t seem to work out too well for the people. How is this secret settlement scheme any different?”

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Ehrhardt said political leaders should be focusing on jobs and business instead of making deals with trial lawyers. He also said the lawsuits haven’t helped coastal restoration projects as much as contributions by energy industries.

Similar responses have come from the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association and a spokesperson for the legal teams representing BP America Production Company, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil Corporation and Shell.

“The proposed settlement is not dedicated to Louisiana’s coast, and it will not help advance a meaningful resolution to the litigation,” said Melissa Landry on behalf of the legal teams. “These misguided lawsuits challenge decades of operations that were conducted lawfully with the full knowledge and encouragement of state and federal officials. This distortion of state policy was created by private plaintiffs’ lawyers who are not accountable to the public and serve their own interests.”

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