Letters: Fagan on target about frivolous oil industry lawsuits

  • May 22, 2020
  • The Advocate

Kudos to Dan Fagan for an excellent article highlighting the problems faced by the petroleum industry in Louisiana.

Louisiana’s oil industry enriched the coffers of Louisiana for over 70 years and created a very significant number of multimillionaires of the landowners with which it dealt. Check out the number of multimillionaire families in Louisiana and just see from where their riches came.

What a shame that, in addition to the low world oil price and the current pandemic, Louisiana’s oil industry must also contend with a multitude of lawyers who comb the countryside, promising every landowner with an oil well on his or her property that there is money to be made.

Our courts are exploding with these frivolous lawsuits that seek only to squeeze the oil industry for more money, thus actually preventing anyone, oil companies or oil investors, from wanting to do business here. Unfortunately, this has had a tremendous cost for Louisiana in both income and jobs.

I’ve experienced this firsthand. I’ve roamed the swamps looking for wells that were properly abandoned in the 1940s but appear on a legacy lawsuit list.

The state of Louisiana thought there may be future utility for some of these wells and did not want the old casing stub removed. Oil companies complied, when, for a few hundred dollars more, they would have been happy to remove any evidence of a well.

Today, I’ve seen the costs to remove these old stumps reach six figures — many of these old wells are in swamps that have overgrown and are very difficult to reach. Similarly, oilfield canals that were cut through the marsh and swamp typically silt back up after operations have ceased.

Louisiana’s coastal erosion problem was considerably more enhanced by navigational thruways for shipping rather than the oilfield canals. In addition, oil companies paid mitigation costs for said oilfield canals.

The state was to build new marsh in exchange for that which was dredged. Why should oil companies pay twice?

It was an excellent article. Thank you for keeping this in the public eye.