Minden Press-Herald

Sep 30th

Still talking money

State, BP negotiating 2 years later

More than two years after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana Attorney General James "Buddy" Caldwell said federal and state lawyers are still in negotiations with British Petroleum over how much the company should pay for the damage caused by the spill.

Caldwell's bullpen of attorneys has faced hurdles in their quest to make sure Louisiana gets its share of the money.

"The governor (Bobby Jindal) sent an offer to BP's attorneys for $388 million," Caldwell said. "I took exactly the same information the governor's attorneys used and came up with $2.6 billion ... guess who we're going with?"

Caldwell's office began legal work with a $15 million BP budget.

"The governor took our money out of the state budget," Caldwell said. "But we got it put back in, so we ended up getting our money."

Caldwell spent $7 million on attorneys.

"The governor, to his credit, initially diverted $10 million of BP money so we could get started in litigation," he said. "That's a big benefit for us. We've only spent $7 million of it. The governor's office spent $4 million for us by dragging us into something we told them not to get into, which is the limitational liability proceedings."

Caldwell said the idea was to keep the state from paying for litigation fees for whch BP should be liable.

"We did not want to come into that because we instructed them it would cost us money that BP is absolutely liable to us for," Caldwell said. "Why should we get in and be subject to discovery? What did it do? It cost us $4 million, just like I said it would do."

Caldwell said, according to BP's statements, the company has spent $2.1 billion in attorney's fees alone.

"The main thing we get out of it, is to get back the money the state has spent and to get BP out of the business of fooling with the Attorney General's office," Caldwell said.

Louisiana has 661 miles of coastline that has been contaminated with heavy to medium oil.

"All the rest of the coastline has tar balls," he said.

In addition to Louisiana, coastal land in Florida, Texas, Alabama and Mississippi suffered from the spill. The case is in federal court.

"All claims related to the oil spill are consolidated in federal court, regardless of the state you're in," Caldwell said. "BP offered $800 million total to all five states. Our environmental damage in Louisiana alone is probably $30 to 50 million."

Last week, Caldwell said he asked the judge to set a trial date for Louisiana's 2010 economic losses.

"Just let me try that in front of a jury," the AG said. "The judge is considering it. This is a major move for Louisiana."






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