2012 Regular Legislative Session —Update on Environmental Legislation

The 2012 Regular Legislative Session ended on June 4, 2012. Most of the environmental bills we were watching never made it out of committee. As of this writing, though, several are awaiting the Governor’s signature.

Legacy Lawsuits

HB 618 (Abramson and others) allows any party in a civil matter alleging environmental damage under La. R.S. 30:29 or the LDNR to request the development of an environmental management order. The order will allow access to the property for inspections and testing and mandates sharing of the test results. It also allows a “limited admission” of liability which is not to be constructed as an admission of liability for damages under Section 30:29 or a waiver of any rights or defenses. Instead, the admission is limited to the implementation of the most feasible plan to remediate all or a portion of contamination to applicable regulatory standards. Relates to Code of Civil Procedure Articles 1552 and 1563.

SB 555 (Adley and others) allows an LDNR employee to be subpoenaed for deposition or trial regarding the formulation of a feasible plan. It also allows, upon request of a defendant, a preliminary hearing to determine if there is good cause for maintaining the defendant as a party to the litigation. If not, the party may be dismissed without prejudice, which means the party can be re-joined later if evidence becomes available. Finally, it allows a suspension of the prescriptive period for one year upon a submission to the LDNR of a notice of intent to investigate a piece of property for environmental damage. Any later judicial demand must include the results of any environmental testing. Relates to La. R.S. 30:29.

Of Burning Interest

Act 637 – SB 228 (Morrish) would prohibit the LDEQ from making any rule with respect to controlled burning, after written notice to local fire department and sheriff’s office of agriculture materials, including crates, used in the storage or transportation of sweet potatoes. Relates to La. R.S. 30:2054(B).

General Bills

HB 957 (Edwards) requires LDNR to publish rules mandating that a well operator report the ingredients in any hydraulic fracturing fluid “no later than twenty days following the completion of hydraulic fracturing stimulation operations.” Relates to La. R.S. 30:4(L).

SB 748 (Morrish) establishes a reportable quantity of one thousand pounds or more as a reportable release of natural gas from distribution lines. Relates to La. R.S. 30 30:2373(B).

Act 261 – HB 532 (Morris) relates to cooperative endeavor agreements to withdraw running surface water. It prohibits any new agreements for applications received after December 31, 2014 and mandates that all existing agreements must terminate by December 31, 2020. Relates to La. R.S. 30:961.

Act 588 – HB 656 (Dove) redraws the coastal zone boundary. It also requires LDNR to post maps of the coastal zone on-line for easy identification of the boundaries. The maps must be detailed enough that a person may review the map and determine whether a potential project is within the coastal zone, “thus obviating the need to submit an application for a coastal use permit.” Relates to La. R.S. 49:214.24 and 214.34.

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