Climate lawsuits against manufacturers may drive businesses trying to escape mounting legal bills out of the U.S., according to the head of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI).
Municipal governments across the U.S. have launched more than a dozen lawsuits against oil and gas companies seeking “public nuisance” awards for contributing to climate change, according to Manufacturers’ Accountability Project Executive Director Lindsey de la Torre.
The lawsuits are aimed at forcing companies such as BP and ExxonMobil to contribute to a fund that will be used to pay for damage from floods and hurricanes. The money will also fund infrastructure projects aimed at lessening the impact of storms and a rising sea level.
LABI President and CEO Stephen Waguespack warns that the mounting legal costs and hostility to business will force manufacturers out of select states and could push businesses out of the country altogether.
Lawsuits targeting oil and gas producers over Louisiana’s coastal environment have been “in vogue” in the state since 2013, according to Waguespack. Since then, Louisiana’s manufacturing sector has fallen behind surrounding states.
“Since the date of that first coastal lawsuit here in Louisiana, we’ve seen other states that we compete with, states like Texas, New Mexico, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Colorado and even the deep-water Gulf of Mexico, all of those states and areas have seen a continued increase in total oil production per month, total investment per month,” Waguespack told reporters on a press call Friday.
Louisiana’s own oil production and investment have struggled relative to its competitors within the same time frame.
“We’ve lost jobs and investments to other states as these lawsuits have picked up since 2013,” Waguespack said.
If the climate lawsuits — so far filed in California, Colorado, Maryland, New York, Rhode Island and Washington state — spread further around the U.S., businesses may opt to move out of the country to escape court costs even though the lawsuits have been largely ineffective.
“As we look at these public nuisance lawsuits in other states, in other cities across the country, we have equally as much concern about the impact they can have on manufacturing jobs that are right now here in America, that we don’t want to chase them to other countries, overseas where these lawsuits can’t follow them,” Waguespack said. “We know that by experience here in Louisiana.”
“We hear a lot of momentum from our members right now of national policies that are taking place on the regulatory front, on the tax front,” Waguespack added. “More manufacturing jobs are coming back to America, some are coming back to Louisiana. That’s a trend we want to continue.”