Today, Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholar Robert Verchick published an op-ed in New Orleans' Times-Picayune entitled, "Gov. Jindal, don't sign away our legal claims against BP."
The piece notes:
Governor Jindal will probably sign SB469, a bill designed to neutralize the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority – East's lawsuit against oil and gas companies. But does our governor realize that, if he signs this bill, he may also be killing scores of claims that his own his own state and associated local governments have brought against BP for the Macondo oil spill?
For, whatever the governor or state lawmakers may believe, that is precisely what SB469 might do.
SB469 clearly lists not only who can bring claims in Louisiana's coastal zone, but what kind of claims they can bring. Notably missing from its list are claims for economic losses and claims for natural resource damages under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA) – the very basis for pending claims against BP.
But the state, as well as several parishes, have already brought economic claims under OPA...So have coastal cities...And fire districts...And airports...And school districts...And SLFPAE itself, which presented a claim against BP for more than $79 million, mostly to recover tax revenues it lost because of the oil spill.
These OPA claims are not frivolous or opportunistic. Indeed, Governor Jindal has said for months that one of the reasons he opposed the SLFPAE lawsuit is that he thought it threatened state and local governments’ OPA claims against BP. communities that are bringing these claims were hit hard by the Macondo oil spill. They're trying to recover just some of what they lost.
For example, in its OPA suit against BP, Jefferson Parish has alleged that it suffered:
2.Damage to the quality of life of its citizens
3.Loss of sales tax revenues, use tax revenues, Parish tax revenues, inventory tax revenues, hotel and motel tax revenues, reverence tax revenues, royalties, rents and fees
4.Increased costs of providing services to the citizens of the Parish of Jefferson
5.Damage to the natural resources of the Parish of Jefferson
6.Increased costs for the monitoring of the health of its citizens and the treatment of physical and emotional problems related to the oil spill
7.Costs for educating and retraining employees
8.Increased promotional costs
9.Increased costs to borrow money
10.Increased costs for debt service
11.Loss of fees for permits and licenses
12.Loss of fines and forfeitures income
13.Increased administrative costs
14.Damages to the reputation and image of claimants in the business and tourism communities
Because SB469 works retroactively, it could undo all of these claims. Did Governor Jindal know that, when he pushed SB469 in the legislature?
To read the entire piece click here.
Professor Verchick also drafted a memo with fellow CPR Member Scholars and law professors Christine Klein and William Andreen on the consequences of SB469's passage and they urge the Louisiana legislature to vote against the bill.
To read the memo click here.
June 3 update, Jindal Blinks: According to a June 3 story in the Baton Rouge Advocate, Governor Jindal backed off of plans to sign the bill at a news conference called for the purpose:
Jindal had planned to sign SB469 at a news conference Monday afternoon, but he left the bill untouched after Attorney General Buddy Caldwell asked for time to look into a claim it could be used by lawyers for BP to scuttle suits brought for economic damages during the 2010 oil spill. That claim, put forward by law professors, first arose over the weekend.
“We’re not signing the bill today,” Jindal said Monday. “The attorney general asked for some additional time to look at it, and out of an abundance of caution, we’ll give the attorney general time to do that,” he said.