Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has designated another $5 million – for a total of $10 million – of the $25 million block grant provided by BP to Attorney General Buddy Caldwell’s office to support expenses incurred as a result of the BP oil spill. Jindal designated the first $5 million to the AG’s office in late May.
A Louisiana district court judge earlier in June approved Caldwell’s request to investigate BP as a result of the rig explosion that’s dumping oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The AG is seeking information on the company’s process for compensating Louisianans affected by the disaster. Judicial District Court Judge Joy C. Lobrano approved Caldwell’s petition requesting that BP turn over data related to the oil spill claims process and information on the explosion and spill.
The petition also requested that BP provide information on the composition of mud used in the drilling and the failed “top kill” operation, and on the use and effects of chemical dispersants, and all air and water quality data.
In a letter to Kenneth Feinberg, overseer of BP’s $20 billion oil spill compensation fund, Caldwell explained the difficulties the state has had in getting information from BP regarding the claims process. Caldwell said Louisiana should have an active role in the development of a data-sharing protocol between BP and federal and state governments regarding claims processing.
The AG also requested information concerning how the third party administration of the oil spill compensation fund will be managed, including:
- Any literature developed in preparation of the management of the oil spill fund and/or any literature developed regarding past funds which Feinberg has managed;
- The identity of the third party claims administrator and all sub-contractors selected, or the process by which the claims administrator will be selected.
- The timeframe for the takeover of the claims process by the third party administrator;
- How the National Pollution Fund Center or other federal agencies will oversee the process;
- Expected improvements in the claims process; and
- The level of transparency and participation that Louisiana will be granted in the claims process of the new oil spill compensation fund.
Caldwell recently filed an amicus curiae brief before the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation regarding pending motions to consolidate and transfer cases stemming from the Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent oil spill. Caldwell said if cases are consolidated, the Eastern District of Louisiana is the most appropriate venue for the proceedings. The AG cited the court’s proximity and connection to the disaster, as well as the convenience for affected litigants and witnesses.
Caldwell suffered a slight setback when the Louisiana Legislature adjourned without completing a deal on Senate Bill 731 that would have allowed the AG to hire outside attorneys on a contingency fee basis to work on litigation against BP.
The bill was promoted as a strategy to provide the AG with the necessary legal resources to litigate against BP, but business groups and lawsuit reform advocates opposed the bill, saying it would provide incentives for the filing of unwarranted lawsuits.