If the oil industry isn’t going to operate on a zero spill mandate, when there are issues at sites and cleanups are not done quickly enough to satisfy area residents, a companies social license can be in jeopardy. That’s what’s happening in Louisiana. Many landowners in the southern state have been locked in a battle with oil companies for more than ten years over how to fix environmental damage caused by oil and gas operations.
New Orleans WWL-TV reports “legacy lawsuits” on marshland cleanups and found that full-scale jobs are hard to find. The station ran a series looking at how legacy lawsuits are a billion-dollar problem that rarely gets solved. The reason is legal and political forces create a framework in which cleaning the environment is rarely beneficial to either side.
Over 360 legacy suits have been filed by landowners against oil companies over the past two decades. The plaintiffs often win, settlements have at times been millions of dollars for damages on their property.
Some of the money is allotted for remediation, but the completion rate has been nothing to cheer about. Oil companies might deny liability, and, at times, fight each other over who is responsible for the damages.
The landowners on the other hand, might decide to delay cleanup until after a full trial is held, because they want all the evidence intact to pursue larger awards.
While the problem doesn’t just lie with the oil companies, they are likely the ones getting their reputations battered, since they are the ones who caused the damage in many of the cases.