Policy News

Poll: Louisianans Distrust Motives Behind Coastal Erosion Lawsuits

A new Google poll conducted and released by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) found that a majority of Louisianans say that the coastal erosion lawsuits brought by private trial lawyers on behalf of local governments are more about money than the environment.

Fifty-seven percent of Louisianans said the trend of local parishes, or counties, hiring private lawyers to sue energy companies for their alleged contribution to coastal erosion was more about the “trial lawyers looking for a payday” than “fixing environmental damage.”

The poll, which collected 1,001 responses across the state, was conducted online from July 31 through August 2, 2019 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.2 percent.

Parishes and cities in the southern part of the state have filed lawsuits against energy companies over their alleged role in coastal erosion. These local governments are being pitched by private trial lawyers, who offer to represent governments on a contingency fee basis. New ILR research documents the history of these cases, and how they may not achieve the promises made by the trial lawyers.

The full question and responses are below:

Some parishes are hiring trial lawyers to sue energy companies, alleging they contributed to coastal erosion.

Do you think this is more about:

  • Trial lawyers looking for a payday (56.7%)
  • Fixing environmental damage (43.3%)

In related news, an energy industry consultant wrote in Forbes that the decades-long litigation against energy companies in Louisiana has been “failing miserably” when it comes to achieving its goal of restoring the state’s wetlands.

David Blackmon said the lawsuits against energy companies over their alleged contribution to land erosion have not resulted in any money gained for restoration projects, but rather has only been successful in “depressing the state’s oil and gas sector and in enriching plaintiffs' firms.” He said Louisiana’s courts “have long provided friendly, fertile ground for plaintiff trial lawyer firms looking to bring class action suits on a contingency-fee basis” even though state agencies have listed other factors that have also contributed to the land loss.

Blackmon cited a paper released by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform last week that said the litigation threatens the energy industry’s presence in the state, which has been Louisiana’s largest employer. “Litigation vs. Restoration” outlines the history of the litigation and offers alternative solutions.

Source: U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform

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