A Baton Rouge district court judge ruled Monday afternoon that state Attorney General Buddy Caldwell acted properly according to Louisiana law in signing off on a New Orleans-area levee board’s request to hire outside lawyers on a contingency fee to sue almost 100 oil and gas companies over damage to wetlands — damage the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East contends has made the New Orleans region more susceptible to hurricane damage.
In a jab at the Louisiana Oil & Gas Association, which filed suit against Caldwell in an effort to kill the lawsuit against the oil/gas companies, Judge Janice Clark characterized the LOGA suit as “frivolous” — clearly a characterization directed at LOGA President Don Briggs, who routinely calls legacy lawsuits against his industry “frivolous” and the result of “greedy trial lawyers” attempting to make bank at the expense of the hard-working Louisianans.
From a press release from Caldwell’s office announcing Clark’s ruling:
Just as Attorney General Caldwell has insisted all along, Judge Clark ruled Caldwell did indeed follow Louisiana statutes in approving the form of last year’s resolution brought by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East against 97 oil and gas companies. SLFPAE is suing the energy companies to force them to correct decades of environmental damage to Louisiana’s coastline, damage the companies had agreed to repair as part of their drilling permits.
Says Attorney General Caldwell, “I am pleased that the court followed the clear letter of the law and ruled that our office correctly followed the rules and procedures, particularly regarding our approval of the levee board’s resolution to hire attorneys."
In a separate, earlier ruling, Clark also said that the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office has “clear authority” to hire outside counsel to go after oil companies who violated their lease agreements — that is, to restore exploration areas to their original condition or pay the cost thereof — on state-owned lands.
The twin rulings Monday come as the latest setbacks for Briggs, whose disastrous Feb. 20 deposition in the matter revealed that he could provide no examples of oil companies that have either scaled back business in Louisiana or decided not to drill here due to the state’s “hellhole” of a legal climate as well as his admission that he hadn’t even read the suit LOGA filed against Caldwell or the levee board suit against the oil companies.
Anxiety stemming from that deposition exacerbated, according to Briggs’ attorneys, a pre-existing heart condition, causing him to delay by nearly two weeks the appearance before Judge Clark that finally happened today.