Image: Louis Buatt
Louis
Louis E. Buatt
Shareholder, New Orleans
Co-Chair, Environmental Regulatory Practice Group
Hancock Whitney Center
701 Poydras Street
Suite 5000
New Orleans, Louisiana 70139

Overview

Lou Buatt is a highly-regarded business lawyer who helps energy, petrochemical, and industrial clients navigate and deal with complex environmental and energy laws and regulatory programs throughout the Gulf Coast. Clients benefit from Lou’s training and experience as a geologist along with his fifteen plus years of working inside government environmental and energy regulatory agencies.  A primary focus of Lou’s practice is devoted to representing and assisting major industrial clients with environmental and energy related issues associated with developing, acquiring and divesting chemical manufacturing facilities, refineries, and other high-profile energy related facilities.  He also represents and assists major industrial clients resolve complex environmental and energy related permitting and enforcement matters.  

Here are a few examples where clients benefitted from Lou’s problem-solving experience:

• A major petrochemical company wanted to develop a facility on the Mississippi River while some members of the community and environmental groups objected and raised concerns. 

Lou lead the team that identified and developed strategies to address the environmental regulatory permitting and local land use challenges to allow the project to go forward.  When major environmental permits for the facility were appealed, Lou and his team successfully defended those permits. 

• A major oil refinery was facing numerous enforcement actions leveled by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality and a potential intervention by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).   The agencies were asserting numerous violations of environmental regulations at the facility. 

Lou and his team negotiated a technical and legal resolution that resolved the enforcement actions while also limiting the potential for intervention by the EPA.  Instead of paying a large monetary fine, the client agreed to enhance pollution controls at the facility that made it more efficient, improved future compliance, and a better neighbor.

• A major international company wanted to purchase an existing chemical manufacturing facility and needed to understand the environmental regulatory issues and liabilities associated with the target facility to determine if acquisition was feasible and to assist in negotiating the terms of acquisition.   

Lou and his team, along with environmental consulting experts and company technical personnel, conducted the environmental due diligence identifying and evaluating the environmental regulatory issues and liabilities associated with the target facility that was considered in the decision to acquire the target facility and was successfully used by the business team to negotiate favorable commercial terms for the acquisition.  

• Major chemical manufacturing facilities and a refinery were alleged to be responsible for injuries to natural resources caused from releases associated with past operations.  These companies and the federal and state natural resource trustees had been negotiating resolution of these claims for nearly fifteen years.  

Lou was retained by these companies to evaluate the claims and to development and implement a strategy to resolve these longstanding claims for injuries to natural resources.  Lou along with the rest of the team developed and implemented a strategy that resulted in settlement of these claims via a consent decree within two years of his retention.  

With more than 15 years of public-sector service, Lou helped shape Louisiana's environmental and energy regulatory programs and policies.  From the mid-1990s until he began his private law practice in 2011, he served as Assistant Secretary and General Counsel to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, Assistant Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, and Secretary of the State Mineral and Energy Board.

Today, he represents clients before the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, and the State Mineral and Energy Board in a variety of matters related to environmental and energy regulatory programs and transactions.  He also provides counsel and advice to trade associations for environmental and energy law and policy, such as regulations governing hydraulic fracturing. The Calcasieu River Waterway Harbor Safety Committee recently recognized Lou “for his exceptionally innovative thinking and his steadfast support of the environmental needs of southwest Louisiana.” 

Energy companies regularly turn to Lou when they're embroiled in legacy lawsuits. In these oilfield restoration cases, he represents upstream, midstream and downstream clients in administrative, Limited Admission Hearings before the Office of Conservation, and assists Liskow’s litigation teams with the technical and regulatory requirements related to oilfield site restoration.  He also coordinates and manages retained experts

Experience

Lou handles complex environmental and energy regulatory and transactional matters for energy and petrochemical-industry clients throughout Louisiana and the Gulf Coast.  As a trained geologist and former state regulator, Lou helps clients with development, acquisition and divestiture of petrochemical and energy facilities; environmental and energy permitting, enforcement, and transactional matters; and environmental and energy litigation matters. Here are a few recent examples:

  • South Louisiana Methanol LP (SLM)-during the development of what will be the world’s largest methanol plant once constructed, was faced with newly enacted land use ordinances that jeopardized the project and opposition to major environmental permits necessary to construct and operate the facility. Lou led the team that successfully developed and implemented the strategy to obtain land use approval for the project from the local government.  In addition, when the air quality permits were appealed by an environmental activist group and others, Lou and a team of Liskow lawyers led by Lou successfully defended these permits by obtaining a favorable ruling in District Court affirming the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality’s decision issuing these permits. Lou and his team have also been instrumental in the development and implementation of the strategy to obtain and defend other major environmental and regulatory permits necessary for the project. 
  • NOVA Chemicals Corporation in the acquisition of an olefins plant in Louisiana.   Lou and his team along with environmental consulting experts and company technical personnel conducted the environmental due diligence identifying and evaluating the environmental regulatory issues and liabilities associated with the facility that was considered in the decision to acquire the facility and was successfully used by the business team to negotiate favorable commercial terms for the acquisition.  
  • CITGO Petroleum Corporation-Lake Charles Manufacturing Complex- in handling enforcement actions issued by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality and other potential environmental compliance matters by developing the strategy and comprehensively assessing and negotiating a global resolution/settlement of all pending environmental enforcement actions and all other potential environmental compliance matters related to its refinery and other operations in Louisiana.   
  • Development, acquisition and divestiture of petrochemical and energy facilities.  Based on his training and experience as a geologist and as General Counsel and Assistant Secretary with environmental and energy regulatory agencies, Lou helps petrochemical and energy-industry clients where technical and legal issues intersect.  For example, his clients rely on him to navigate the myriad of regulatory obstacles associated with plant development projects, permitting, enforcement, and lender due diligence.  This includes his recent involvement in a $5 billion liquefied natural gas facility, a major landfill and other Phase 1 and Phase 2 property assessments for both lenders and developers.
  • Salt caverns and hydrocarbon storage.  With new environmental regulatory requirements, midstream operators are turning to Lou for help demonstrating compliance or to prepare a plan and schedule to achieve timely compliance.  
  • Oil and gas legacy cases.  Lou helps gather and analyze the historical land-use and analytical data to assess the nature and extent of response actions options that may be available by law and regulation.  He coordinates with experts and evaluates the plaintiffs’ experts’ reports to develop a reasonable and feasible remediation plan to meet the regulatory requirements.  In a recent Limited Admission Hearing, Lou helped his client obtain a resolution for a fraction of the potential exposure.

Government Regulatory Experience

Lou Buatt has years of top-level regulatory experience and has helped shape Louisiana's regulatory programs and policies affecting energy and the environmental programs.  He had a hand in virtually every major environmental issue in Louisiana from the mid-1990s until he entered private law practice in 2011.  Here's a summary of some of his key, major public agency accomplishments:

  1. Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, Assistant Secretary, General Counsel and attorney.  Lou led and oversaw successful negotiations and litigation that resulted in the cleanup of hundreds of contaminated sites and the resolution of hundreds of environmental violations and disputed permitting matters. In addition, he led or participated in the following:
    • Legislation and regulations for adoption of the Louisiana Pollution Discharge Elimination System (LPDES) Water Permit Program
    • Rules and regulations concerning Louisiana’s Inactive and Abandoned Sites Program and the Voluntary Remediation Program
    • LDEQ’s Risk Evaluation Corrective Action Program (RECAP)
    • Re-write of the Solid Waste Regulations
    • Approval and execution of various State Implementation Plans under the Clean Air Act
    • Statewide Ozone Steering Committee to address the Environmental Protection Agency’s revisions to the ozone standard in 2008
    • Legacy site legislation that resulted in Act 1166 of 2003 and Act 312 of 2006
    • Defense of the emergency orders issued by the LDEQ in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita
    • Counsel for the State of Louisiana in the largest Superfund cost recovery case in the nation at that time (State of Louisiana v. Braselman, 78 F. Supp. 543 [E.D. LA. 1999])
  2. Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, Assistant Secretary.  Lou was responsible for reducing coastal use permitting processing times by more than 50 percent.  In addition, he accomplished the following:
    • Reformed LDNR’s beneficial use of dredged material program used to create wetlands and enhanced performance of that program by increasing beneficial use of dredged material from 22 percent to 100 percent
    • Initiated the efforts that resulted in redefining Louisiana’s Coastal Zone Boundary established more than 30 years ago
    • Reformed the mitigation program associated with coastal use permits to be more consistent with Louisiana’s Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast.  He established an In Lieu Fund program that allowed the state to strategically locate and construct mitigation projects that supports and compliments Louisiana’s Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast.
  3. Louisiana Mineral and Energy Board, Secretary.  Lou successfully negotiated the settlement of one of the state's most significant concursus proceedings, involving approximately $15 million in disputed royalties and mineral revenue. He also led the effort to develop and coordinate the passage of Acts 875 and 930 of the 2010 Regular Legislative Session that authorized the State Mineral and Energy Board to lease state lands for the exploration, development, and production of energy from alternative energy resources.

Prior to joining Liskow & Lewis, Louis was a partner at Jones Walker.

Involvement

Professional

  • Louisiana Oil and Gas Association – Board of Directors, 2012–2018
  • Liskow & Lewis Environmental Regulatory Practice Group - Co-Chair
  • Louisiana State Bar, Environmental Law Section
  • Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority – Member, 2008–2011
  • Coastal Protection and Restoration Finance Corporation - Ex Officio Member, 2008–2011
  • Gulf of Mexico Alliance, 2008–2010
  • Louisiana State Bar Association - Member, 1989–present
  • Atchafalaya Basin Research and Promotion Board, Chair, 2009–2011
  • Louisiana Environmental Education Commission, 2008–2011

Recognition

  • The Best Lawyers in America, 2016—present
  • New Orleans Magazine's List of "Top Lawyers," 2015-present
  • Chambers USA – America's Leading Lawyers for Business in the area of Environment, 2012–present

Best Lawyers Award Badge

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Presentations

  • “Overview of the Louisiana Coastal Zone Management Program,” Louisiana Oil & Gas Association, September 15, 2014
  • "Environmental Issues in Energy Mergers & Acquisitions," November 15, 2013
  • "Update on Legacy Lawsuits and Legislation," October 30, 2013
  • "Legacy Litigation Update," Paul M. Hebert Law Center, Louisiana State University, March 15, 2013
  • "Water Resource Law and Policy," March 1, 2013
  • "The Limited Admission Legislation," June 27, 2012

 

Publications

  • "Vermilion Parish School Board vs. Louisiana Land and Exploration Company" LOGA Industry Report, Spring 2013
  • "Legacy Litigation Update: The 2012 Legislative Amendments and Vermillion Parish School Board v. Louisiana Land and Exploration Company, "March 2013
  • "Oil and Gas Operators Must Pay to Use Running Water: A Critique of the Attorney General Opinions," LOGA Industry Report, Winter 2013
  • "The 2012 Legacy Lawsuit Legislation: Making the Most of the DNR Public Hearing," LOGA Industry Report, Fall 2012
  • "Are You Minding Your Section 404 Permits?," LOGA Industry Report, Winter 2012
  • "OCM Reduces Permit Times," LOGA Industry Report, Fall 2011

After Hours

"I like to hunt and fish. I also shoot competitively precision long-range rifles.  I've even built a couple of rifles.  It's something I've been interested in since I was 8 or 9."