Attorneys offer to settle oil and gas lawsuit

NEW ORLEANS (WAFB) - The attorneys representing the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority - East (SLFPA-E) have formally extended an offer to restructure their fees if the 97 oil and gas companies named in the suit will come to the table and negotiate a fair and equitable settlement in the case.

The New Orleans-area levee board filed a lawsuit against more than 90 oil and gas companies whose drilling activities are blamed for coastal erosion in vulnerable wetlands.

"SLFPA-E filed this lawsuit in order to protect the lives, property, and culture of coastal Louisiana" said Gladstone Jones, lead attorney for SLFPAE. "The oil and gas industry has used the rhetoric of 'greedy trial lawyers' to distract from the true facts of this case that show these companies played a role in the coastal erosion of South Louisiana. This proposal puts an end to that distraction."

The fee agreement between the firms and the SLFPA-E has been the subject of legislation that is currently moving through the Louisiana Legislature. Gov. Bobby Jindal opposes the lawsuit.

This "offer" misses the most important point of the opposition to the SLFPA-E's lawsuit," said Jerome Zeringue, executive assistant to the Governor for Coastal Activites. "Neither the SLFPA-E nor its attorneys have authority to prosecute a lawsuit or to negotiate a settlement to remedy the "land loss crisis facing coastal Louisiana. The board's overreach of authority and its lawyers' efforts to legitimize a fee agreement that is against public policy have gone on too long. The contract should be canceled, the lawsuit should be dismissed, and the board should return its attention to the important functions within its jurisdiction."

In order to get that issue out of the way, the lawyers will agree to waive fees owed under the existing fee agreement with the SLFPAE with respect to any oil, gas or pipeline defendant named in the SLFPAE action that:

(1) agrees within six months to enter into negotiations toward a compromise and

(2) agrees to pay mutually agreeable attorneys' fees in connection with such a compromise. In the event the parties cannot reach a mutual agreement, all parties agree to submit the question of the attorneys' fee to arbitration.

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