Last week, the Manufacturers’ Accountability Project (MAP), in partnership with the Louisiana Association for Business and Industry (LABI), held a briefing on the growing trend of public nuisance litigation being filed against manufacturers across the country, and particularly those cases against energy manufacturers.
MAP Executive Director Lindsey de la Torre and LABI president and CEO Stephen Waguespack hosted the conversation with former Governor of Virginia George Allen, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes and Louisiana Solicitor General Liz Murrill.
In each of the cases that have been filed against manufacturers, trial lawyers are attempting to use the complaints as vehicles for pushing policy decisions, an action the courts do not have the authority to take.
“These [policy decisions] are for elected representatives of the people; especially in our country, they’re the ones that ought to be making these decisions, along with the executive branch,” Governor Allen asserted.
Solicitor General Murrill agreed, saying she believes the lawsuits “fundamentally are not the proper vehicle to address these types of problems.” Attorney General Reyes also echoed the former governor in his remarks.
“I heard the last part of the governor’s remarks and agree with him wholeheartedly that these cases commandeer the rightful role of Congress to pass policy for the nation and are improper in terms of trying to legislate extraterritorial economic policy from the states in which they originate.”
MAP’s de la Torre focused much of the conversation on the ways manufacturers are working to improve the environment a fact that the municipalities and states waging this litigation fail to mention in their lawsuits.
“Manufacturers are working toward real solutions and have pioneered new strategies and technologies to reduce emissions,” de la Torre said. “Manufacturers are continuing to invest in technology and innovation. We believe that these are the right strategies to improve the environment and not through frivolous litigation that we’re seeing. Over the past decade, manufacturers have reduced emissions by 10%, while increasing value to the economy by 19%.”
LABI president and CEO Stephen Wasguespack emphasized the growth and progress that the manufacturing sector has made in recent months and how much damage these lawsuits could cause if they penetrate Louisiana’s borders.
“We see a lot of momentum from our members right now of national policies that are taking place on the regulatory front, on the tax front—more manufacturing jobs are coming back to America and some of those are coming back to Louisiana,” Waguespack said. “That’s a trend we want to continue, but we’re worried if these public nuisance lawsuits become not just in vogue around the country, but they start to pop up here in Louisiana, we’ll see a familiar theme we’ve seen before, where the lawsuits go up and the jobs and investment go down.”
Governor Allen also discussed de la Torre’s point, highlighting how manufacturers are not only focused on the environment, but committed to operating in a way that betters it.
“[T]he reality is, manufacturers are always looking to improve. It’s constant improvement. That’s their motto. They’re working more efficiently, with better technologies, with less wasted energy, less emissions. All of us want clean water, clean air, clean land and safe working conditions.”
Overall, the briefing emphasized one key point: that these lawsuits against manufacturers are a waste of taxpayer resources and only stand to harm manufacturers. And while these cases—many of which have already been dismissed—make their way through the courts, manufacturers will continue to invest in innovation and technology to improve the environment.