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Edwards alters attorney contracts

An Acadiana lawmaker’s letter to Gov. John Bel Edwards has resulted in some changes — “clarifying language,” the governor called it — in contracts with private lawyers who will represent Louisiana’s coastal parishes in lawsuits against the oil and gas industry.

State Rep. Stuart Bishop, R-Lafayette, wrote the governor Oct. 4 to “re-emphasize” 2014 legislation — Bishop was the lead sponsor in the House of Representatives for it — that bars state departments from using contracts with contingency fees for lawyers without legislative approval. Bishop’s legislation became law as Act 796.

One Acadiana also weighed in Thursday, asking Edwards to "reconsider" his plan to sue the oil and gas industry and instead pursue a "balanced approach" that would protect the coast and the industry.

Jason El Koubi, president and CEO, said four of the nine parishes One Acadiana represents are in the coastal zone. The Lafayette Metropolitan Statistical Area, he said, heavily dependent on the oil and gas industry for jobs, has been beset with widespread unemployment during the two-year industry downturn — the region has lost 16,000 jobs, and 5,000 more may be imperiled — and litigation may put the industry further at risk. He suggested Edwards should not encourage the parishes to sue the industry.

"We ask that the state respect the wishes and autonomy of local parishes to do what is right for each parish and not demand that lawsuits be filed against many of our parishes' largest taxpayers and employers."

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