Something is very wrong in the Land of Cotton



Dr. Robert Bullard
Environmental Justice Movement Founder

Monday, August 16, 2010

Mississippi Governor Barbour Pulls Back on State Lawsuit Against BP/ Will Alabama Follow?

credit: Ramsey
Governor Barbour recently put the cap on the state of Mississippi's lawsuit against BP and in doing so he sends up a plume of controversy for that decision based on the May 13 filing in Houston, Texas by Transocean Limited seeking a 27 million dollar limit be ordered on their liability in the Gulf Oil Spill.

According to The Oil Pollution Act of 1990, 33 U.S.C. § 2701, et seq., (OPA), which was enacted in an effort to streamline federal law and compensate victims of such spills there is a "90 day presentment clause," but it does not preempt state laws governing liability and compensation from oil spills:
Any claim against the company not filed within 90 days can be discharged by the court. Should Transocean later be deemed to be responsible for any part of the disaster, that part of all later filed claims could be lost.
The last day to file and remain within the 90 day window was August 11th,  Barbour halted the lawsuit on July 29th. Will this cause part of the claims to be lost due to the OPA? That may rely on what the Mississippi and Alabama laws are in addition to this being the first "hard test" of the OPA.

Not everyone will be compensated by the OPA which was passed in response to the Exxon Valdez Alaskan Spill. A great deal of the Gulf legal proceedings will be "untested waters" because this is the first serious test of the OPA, that said, for a claimant to collect what they feel are their true losses they have to file suit. BP will have a very different set of parameters in determining what they think is their fault and will fight it every inch of the way.

We believe Alabama AG Troy King was correct in erring on the side of caution, but Governor Riley does not agree with any state lawsuits being filed "prematurely" and has stated he hopes for an "out of court settlement." Like Barbour, he displays trust in BP that is not shared by the overwhelming public sentiment and distrust permeating the country.

Just where was Barbour in June while oil was coming onto Mississippi's shores--why fund-raising in Washington of course!
“The most important thing right now is the 2010 elections,” Barbour told reporters.
Continuing his record of dismissing the magnitude of the BP disaster, Barbour said on Friday after he returned to Mississippi that major slicks miles long within the Mississippi Sound shouldn’t be a cause for alarm.” By Saturday, there were long, wide ribbons of orange-colored oil for as far as the eye could see and acres of both heavy and light sheen moving into the Sound between the barrier islands.”
Out of the 6,000 National Guard troops President Obama has authorized for response in Mississippi, Haley Barbour has mobilized only 58.
"Monkey See Monkey Do"
Governor Riley of Alabama is mirroring Barbour's position and has enlisted the state newspapers to embarrass AG Troy King in his probably one and only wise move ever to file suit against BP before the 90 day deadline ended. In May of 2010, Riley was singing a different tune and claiming he would reconsider his stance on "drill here, drill now":
At a press conference this afternoon in Mobile, AL, the Wonk Room questioned Riley whether he would reconsider his “Drill, Baby, Drill” stance as the oil spill grows, threatening the destruction of the bayous and beaches of Mobile Bay. After a long pause, Riley answered that he “will have a completely different attitude” if the efforts to protect his state’s shores fail:
That’s a great question. After we get through this, I think all of us can make a better determination than we can now. Because with the resources that have been deployed, and if we can do what I hope we can do in Alabama to mitigate any potential environmental damage here, especially in our estuaries, then I will have a completely different attitude about whether or not it is controllable after something this dramatic happens.
We're still waiting Gov.

By the way, did you ever give any reason for deploying less 14% of the 3000 members of the National Guard Troops authorized by Obama to help with the cleanup? The press never followed him up on that one:
"So why would four Gulf Coast governors, all Republicans (although Charlie Crist recently went independent) want to delay the deployment of National Guard troops that they themselves have requested? It isn’t because of money — BP has already agreed to bear the cost of these troops. Could it possibly be for political reasons? Would a governor really sit by and watch their own states be destroyed and their own constituents’ lives and livelihoods sink in the oil muck just to score cheap political points against our president?"
Back to Barbour the "Mighty Mouse That Roars":

In a letter to the Mississippi AG Jim Hood, Barbour asserts that a "premature lawsuit will benefit plaintiff lawyers" and the lawsuit will turn this into another Exxon-Valdez fiasco and claims will "grind to a halt."

The very nature of our cumbersome beast of a legal system, especially in cases involving corporate giants who can afford to delay and wait for years, contributed more to the Exxon case moving at a plodding pace than did the filing of lawsuits against them:
The Exxon Valdez litigation went on for so long because the company argued the original punitive damages ordered, $5 billion, was excessive – an assessment the US Supreme Court agreed with, leading to a final payment of $507 million and $470 million in interest in 2009.
Governor Barbour's reasons aren't passing the leak test, but his past history might help explain his hands-off approach to BPs crimes:

Barbour has long been at the intersection of special interest lobbying, elections, and campaign cash. He represents cash and carry politics at its worst:
• The oil & gas and utility industries were major contributor to his Mississippi gubernatorial campaigns, providing over $1.8 million in campaign cash. [National Institute on Money in State Politics, Accessed 7/2/09]
• According to the Center for Responsive Politics, coal companies and electric utilities lavished over half a million dollars on Barbour’s firm during his last two years as CEO and chairman, in 1998 and 1999. After taking time off to work on advisory committees for the presidential campaign of George B. Bush, Barbour returned to the firm in 2001. With the addition of new clients, including from the oil & gas industry, the firm made over a million dollars a year in dirty energy profits by the time he left again for his 2003 gubernatorial run, with $2.24 million in total for 2001-2002. [Center for Responsive Politics, accessed 7/2/09]
Add that to the push by the Gulf Coast Governors to persuade the federal government to relinquish some of it's lion's share of the oil and gas lease profits in the Gulf, the millions of dollars being paid to Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Louisiana in "grants and tourism advertising" by BP, along with numerous state employees working under BP contractors and the waters become a little clearer in motives.

If these states file lawsuits, their current money gushers are cut off and they upset the oil giants. The potential hundreds of millions of dollars they stand to gain in increased royalties from oil and gas drilling off their coastlines, and their inherent greed makes them play a dangerous game with the oil big boys.

These Governors are betting that all the money they have made these companies over the years will buy them favor now, and they are willing to"call" BPs bluff to be "responsible" by putting up their citizens and coastal environments as their chips.

**Update August 17th**
Wednesday, May 26, 2010 Mobile, ALCunningham Bounds obtained for its clients a significant victory in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas by having Oil Pollution Act claims exempted from the limitation of liability action filed by the various Transocean entities involved in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

A call to Troy King's office today asking if this was the the intent of the state lawsuit was artfully dodged, which we expected, but a well-informed political source tells us it was "part of the AGs decision process." In which case we stand by our earlier statement that we believe King acted appropriately.

August 17, 2010 Montgomery Advertiser story

**Update #2 September 17, 2010 
In the ongoing point the finger game between Riley and King, Riley has announced that King's filing is "forcing" him to slash the education fund. We find that extremely disingenuous with the millions diverted to road building and big business from the Trust Fund by the Governor. Riley is trying to score cheap political points and act as a protector for Big Oil. 
Riley could have easily taken money from one of his many pet projects funds, but instead he chooses to demonize King and use Alabama's children to do it--it is the act of a true coward.
King is right on this one:
''If I were BP's lawyers and I had been able to co-opt the governor of a state to take a public position (at) every available opportunity of attacking and undermining the work of his lawyers to protect the state, I wouldn't pay is claim either,'' King said. ''I would continue to wait and watch and see what other harm he might do to the lawsuit and to the state's position.''
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  1. Is there something in the air down there that just makes everyone crazy???? The Deep South seems like it is nothing more than one big cesspool of political thuggery and thievery.

  2. To pay a law firm that has not worked on assembling those numbers $20 million is unacceptable, Riley said.

    "The chief deputy did not say this office would be paying attorneys for doing no work," Bence said. "This office has repeatedly explained to the governor's office that the lawsuit filed by the attorney general is of extreme benefit to the governor's efforts to get BP to give Alabama a fair settlement, one that will make Alabama completely whole. All BP has to do is deliver on that promise and the lawsuit can be dropped."

    He said the office would have never agreed to pay lawyers millions for work they did not perform.

    "That's hogwash," Bence said.

    What part of this does Riley just not get? Oh, that's right, the answer would be ALL OF IT.

  3. The only hogwash I see going on here is Barbour and Riley trying to pretend they give a damn about anything other than their own self-serving interests!!!!!
    Now Gov. Riley is willing to use children in his gotcha game with King? Alabama's citizen's should flood the Gov's office with protest calls!!!!


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