Letter: Let's look for solutions, not lawsuits
The new year is a time to reflect on the past and resolve to make positive change in the future. As I reflect on an issue that is of utmost importance to many coastal communities — coastal restoration — I am somewhat saddened that the primary solution offered by our state leadership has been to encourage lawyers to file hasty and ill-conceived lawsuits in hopes of a big, quick payday and a potential fill for some budget holes.
We already have a restoration plan, and it’s being funded in large part by the very companies these lawsuits are attacking. These lawsuits are the wrong approach to this problem, and they may make the problem worse.
The oil and gas industry, the cornerstone of our economy in South Louisiana, has simply followed the rules set out by decades’ worth of existing law. The industry has done everything required to legally operate on our coast. Companies go through exhaustive scrutiny and only receive final permitting after agreeing to a rigorous administrative process set up to enforce these permits. If there have been violations of those permits or that process, the state Department of Natural Resources should and does vigorously pursue those that break the law. As in all matters, a lawsuit should be the last recourse, not the first.
The complicated issue of coastal land subsidence is a factor that many from the scientific community believe is the greatest cause of land loss. Louisiana’s coastline has been evolving for thousands of years. The fault lines are continually shifting, adding to and taking away land. Virtually every expert recognizes the governmentally approved levee system as a factor in inhibiting the natural distribution of soil and silt that fed our coastline for centuries.
But, while all these experts acknowledge the issues are multi-faceted and increasingly complex, there remain opportunists whose solution is a legal shakedown of a critical industry. The real disappointment is that environmentalists and coastal governing bodies, knowing that industry dollars are funding the current restoration programs, should actually be the greatest supporters of our oil and gas sector. Attacking these industry partners with lawsuits removes any incentive for operating or expanding in our state.
As we look enthusiastically to a new year, let us resolve to find solutions for coastal restoration through sound science, not shakedowns. And, may we all recognize it is time for cooperation and compromise, not contentious and costly lawsuits.
Senator Sharon Hewitt
2/1/2018 - Published: Houma Today By Sharon Hewitt