La. budget lacks money for Gulf oil spill litigation
BATON ROUGE (AP) — Louisiana’s budget for next year doesn’t include any money for the state’s ongoing legal case against BP for damages caused by the 2010 Gulf oil spill.
Attorney General Buddy Caldwell is asking lawmakers to add $15 million to the 2014-15 spending plans to continue the casework. Without it, Caldwell’s office says it won’t be able to pay its outside attorneys and experts working on the litigation in the fiscal year that begins July 1.
“Without the funds, our work would grind to a halt just when we need to start preparing for Louisiana’s economic damages trial,” Laura Gerdes Colligan, a Caldwell spokeswoman, said in an email this week.
Louisiana sued London-based BP PLC, owner of the blown-out well that spewed more than 200 million gallons of oil, for environmental and economic damages to the state. Those claims are the subject of ongoing federal litigation.
Colligan said legislative leaders and Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration have assured the attorney general’s office that dollars will be added to the budget to fill the gap.
“We will continue to work with the Legislature to ensure that the case is properly funded and that our coastlines are protected,” Greg Dupuis, spokesman for Jindal’s Division of Administration, said in a statement Thursday.
Dupuis said the Jindal administration has identified available money to pay the costs, which don’t include general state tax dollars.
Among the possible funding sources he listed: the state’s coastal fund, Gulf oil spill penalty money already flowing to Louisiana, and a set-aside fund that includes fees, taxes, penalties and other money paid by the oil industry to cope with spills.
Caldwell’s office told lawmakers during budget hearings that more than $35 million has been spent on the state’s ongoing litigation against BP through the current budget year that ends June 30.
Much of that money has been paid to outside lawyers who are working on the case.
The Legislative Fiscal Office, nonpartisan budget analysts for lawmakers, says Caldwell’s $15 million request for next year includes $2.2 million for salary and travel expenses for his staff and $12.8 million for legal, accounting and consulting contracts.