DNR Secretary Angelle lauds decision
Baton Rouge — The way is clear for state district courts to begin ordering the cleanup of old oilfield sites, thanks to a decision by the State Supreme Court handed down July 1, says Department of Natural Resources Secretary Scott Angelle.
The high court’s decision upholds Act 312 of 2006, a law designed to ensure proper remediation of environmental damage caused by oilfield operations.
In overruling a decision made by a district court judge in Catahoula parish in January 2007, the Supreme Court declared that the district courts do maintain control of the restoration process.
“I am pleased to see the high court agree with this law,” says Angelle, whose testimony helped form the opinion.
“What our agency through the Office of Conservation can do now is focus on the actual environmental restoration of old oilfield sites in Louisiana and this ruling will help take us out of the court room and onto performing land remediation,” Angelle says.
The justices recognized that while the DNR Office of Conservation has a role in determining the appropriate cleanup plan by responsible parties, it is the district court that will determine whether environmental damage exists and who is responsible for causing the damage.
In concurring opinion rendered in M.J. Farms, Ltd. vs. Exxon Mobil Corp., et al, Justice Bernette Johnson quoted Secretary Angelle as providing testimony to the state legislature that there was a need for public policy which would require that judicial awards for environmental remediation be placed in the registry of the court, to ensure cleanup. Angelle stated that before Act 312 was passed, there was no law ensuring that awards would be used for cleanup.
The high court’s opinion upholding the constitutionality of Act 312 helps guarantee the protection of the environment and natural resources of the state, as well as the health, safety and welfare of the citizens, by providing a process for remediation of environmental damage, the DNR secretary says.
DNR’s Office of Conservation created a special Environmental Division resulting from the new law enacted in 2006, adding a number of personnel to be charged with duties related to Act 312 and in protecting the public’s interest.
“This was truly landmark legislation, and I am pleased to have worked side by side with state Sen. Robert Adley, former Rep. William Daniel and others to help craft procedures that best protect and restore our natural resources,” says Angelle, former St. Martin Parish president and a resident of Breaux Bridge.