In the past year, changes in the state legislature have aimed to limit lawsuits and the right to collect monetary damages for legacy oil damage claims. However, the battle between landowners and oil and gas companies continues.
On one side, landowners are pushing for companies to actually perform the cleanup work they said they would. On another side, the oil and gas industry complains that landowners are actually keeping remediation money for themselves.
Since 2006, approximately 360 legacy lawsuits have been filed, but only 12 have been verified as cleaned up to state standards. Some believe that the legislative changes since 2006 are making cleanup efforts even more difficult. During that year, the legislature created a framework for making sure the money designated for cleanup actually went to the cleanup process.
Unfortunately, one of the provisions in the 2006 act was to delay legal proceedings until the state authorities could be notified. This provision often created longer delays and bigger legal entanglements.
Take for example Hazel Savoie who sued Shell and other oil and gas companies in 2007. Savoie wanted these companies to restore her lands to their original state after Shell left behind oilfield waste pits. Additionally, one of the wells blew out on the property and it was never cleaned up.
It took four years for the case to go to trial. In 2011, Savoie won $52 million from a jury; $34 million was specifically designated for cleanup efforts. Savoie and Shell had to follow that up with more hearings. Shell offered a remediation plan that would only cost them $4 million and argued that they should get to keep whatever wasn’t needed to meet the state’s environmental standards.
Savoie’s lawyer requested that the $34 million won by the jury be put in the court registry for Shell to use for cleanup work. The state didn’t listen and adopted Shell's cheaper cleanup plan instead.
Despite the decisions of the courts, the two sides are still fighting and the case is set to be heard by the Louisiana Supreme Court in the future.
In 2012, a new bill was supposed to bring more compromise to the table. The bill prevented judges from ruling that an admission of responsibility amounts to an admission of liability for civil damages. The bill also required testing data and other site information to be provided to the Office of Conservation. Unfortunately, some opponents believe that the bill does nothing to get oil companies to step forward and admit responsibility ahead of trial.
These legacy lawsuits are not the only ones on the line, coastal lawsuits could be the “new” legacy lawsuits that are battled out in court. These lawsuits use the legacy lawsuit template to sue companies that dug access canals and laid pipeline in delicate coastal marshes 60 years ago.
If your land has been contamination due to the negligence of an oil or gas company and you’re unsure if you can file a claim, contact our law firm – we’re ready to help. The oilfield contamination lawyers at Simien & Simien are very knowledgeable in oil and gas law.
Call us at (800) 374-8422 or fill out the Free Case Evaluation form on this page to schedule a free review of your claim.