Former Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards serves as special counsel in Fishman Haygood’s Litigation Section. John Bel works with both the firm’s business and litigation teams with a focus on renewable energy matters.

Prior to his governorship, John Bel was a practicing attorney and managing member of Edwards and Associates Law Firm, LLC in his hometown of Amite, La. John Bel successfully represented hundreds of clients in a variety of civil law matters, including contracts, personal injury, successions, wills, and more. Notably, John Bel served on the Plaintiffs Steering Committee of a class action resulting from the 2002 train derailment in Amite (In Re: Train Derailment Near Amite, La., on Oct. 12, 2002).

In 2008, John Bel was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives where he served on the Civil Law, Education, and Judiciary Committees; chaired the Special Committee on Military and Veterans Affairs (2009-11); and was the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus from 2010 through 2015. John Bel represented the people of Amite, Greensburg, Kentwood, and Hammond for eight years before being elected to the highest rank in state government in November 2015.

During his two terms as the 56th Governor of Louisiana, John Bel spearheaded legislative initiatives like Medicaid expansion, budget stabilization, and criminal justice reform. He also was at the state’s helm through the COVID pandemic during which Louisiana suffered its two strongest hurricanes ever: Laura (2020) and Ida (2021).

Having led the response to—and recovery from—fifty state emergencies and twenty-three federal disaster declarations, which also included floods, wildfires, and tornadoes, John Bel took numerous steps to prioritize addressing climate change and expanding the clean energy sector in conjunction with the state’s long history of traditional energy.

In 2017, the Louisiana Legislature unanimously passed the Louisiana Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast. Under John Bel’s administration, the state invested $15.4 billion in coastal protection and restoration construction projects benefitting nearly 32,000 acres of wetlands and 359 miles of levees. The state is currently in engineering and design for another fifty-two projects that—when completed—will represent an additional total investment of nearly $8 billion and benefit just under 300,000 acres of wetlands.

Then, in January 2022, John Bel approved Louisiana’s first-ever Climate Action Plan, an innovative set of recommendations designed to limit the severity of climate change, while maintaining economic competitiveness with the goal of reaching net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. He achieved record economic development and diversification by embracing traditional fossil fuel exploration and production, refining and chemical manufacturing, as well as the transition to low and no carbon energy, with an all-of-the-above approach including hydrogen, solar, wind, biofuels, and carbon capture and sequestration. Louisiana formally began the process to develop offshore wind leasing on the Outer Continental Shelf of the Gulf of Mexico with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in 2022.

Another focus of his administration was budgetary management. After inheriting a state general fund deficit exceeding $2 billion, John Bel left office with a balanced budget; the largest ever investments in education, transportation, coastal restoration and protection, and healthcare; a $300 million surplus; and over $3.2 billion in state savings accounts (more than three times the highest amount ever before achieved).

Among his many accomplishments as governor, John Bel also achieved the lowest unemployment rate ever measured in Louisiana (3.3% in August 2023), as well as the highest per capita income and the largest gross domestic product. His administration made health insurance available to more than 500,000 working poor; reduced the uninsured rate to below the national average; created a healthier, more productive workforce; and strengthened healthcare provider reimbursements to prevent hospital closures.

Finally, John Bel reformed the Industrial Tax Exemption program (ITEP) by tying the exemption to job creation, requiring local governmental approval, and reducing the ad valorem exemption to 80%. The aggregate value of ITEP approved projects more than doubled, and local governments netted more than $750 million in additional revenue for education, law enforcement, fire protection, and infrastructure.

Among his many national and regional appointments, John Bel was appointed to the Council of Governors by President Obama (2016), President Trump (2017), and President Biden (2021). John Bel co-chaired the Council’s committee on cyber security from 2021 through 2023. During that time period, he also chaired the Outer Continental Shelf Governor’s Coalition, membership for which is comprised of the governors of Alaska, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

John Bel was elected to the Board of Directors of Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) in 2016, going on to serve as vice-chairman (2018-2019) and as chairman (2019-2022). He also chaired the Southern Region Education Board (SREB) in 2017-2018.

John Bel received his law degree from the Paul M. Hebert Law Center at Louisiana State University. He clerked for Judge James L. Dennis of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

John Bel received his undergraduate degree from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1988, and he accepted a commission to the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant upon graduation. In eight years of active duty, John Bel earned Airborne, Ranger, and Jumpmaster status, which culminated with the command of a rifle company in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Education

  • J.D. from Paul M. Hebert Law Center, Louisiana State University, 1999
    • Member of the Louisiana Law Review
    • Order of the Coif
  • B.S. in Engineering, Dean's List, from United States Military Academy at West Point, 1988

Clerkship

  • Judge James L. Dennis of the of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, 1999-2000

Publications / Presentations

Select Presentations

  • Plenary address, Annual State of the Coast Conference (May 31, 2023)
  • Speaker, “Building a Bipartisanship Future for the Industry,” American Clean Power Association’s CLEANPOWER Annual Conference (May 24, 2023)
  • Keynote speaker, Global CCS Institute’s Annual D.C. Forum on Carbon Capture & Storage (May 9, 2023)
  • Keynote speaker, 26th Annual National Conservation Systems Conferences (Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, 2023)
  • Speaker, Alaska Sustainable Energy Conference (May 24-26, 2022)
  • Keynote speaker, 27th Annual Tulane Environmental Law and Policy Summit (Mar. 11-12, 2022)
  • Keynote speaker, 2021 Louisiana Association for Justice Fall Conference (Sept. 24, 2021)
  • Keynote speaker, 12th Annual Critical Issues Summit (Feb. 13, 2020)
  • Keynote speaker, Louisiana Statewide Business Summit (Feb. 21, 2019)
  • Featured speaker, Urban League of Louisiana’s 2019 Empowerment & Policy Conference (Sept. 27-28, 2019)
  • Keynote speaker, CLEAN GULF Conference & Exhibition (Nov. 13-15, 2018)
  • Keynote speaker, American Legislative Exchange Council Conference (Aug. 8-10, 2018)
  • Speaker, “A Governor’s Perspective on Homeland Security,” Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government – Harvard University (Oct. 23, 2017)
  • Keynote speaker, Statewide Economic Development Summit (Apr. 18, 2016)
  • Keynote speaker, Louisiana Association of Business and Industry Annual Meeting (Jan. 14, 2016)

Practice Focus

Recognition

  • First-ever Recipient of the Gov. P.B.S. Pinchback Trailblazer Award (2023)
  • Recipient of the Louisiana Emergency Preparedness Association Presidential Award (2023)
  • Recipient of the Harry S. Truman Award for Distinguished Service in Support of National Defense (2022)
  • Recipient of the Governor Casey Whole Life Leadership Award (2016)

Bar Admissions

  • Louisiana