Alabama Republicans Fight Over BP Reimbursement
By John Gramlich, Staff Writer
The unusual scenario is the result of a lawsuit King has filed against BP seeking damages related to April's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Riley contends that the lawsuit, which was filed over his objections, is complicating his own negotiations with the firm over how to get back $148 million in lost tax revenues stemming from the spill. Riley submitted a claim to the firm last month and believes that King's method of being reimbursed - a court battle - will take too long.
As reported in the Mobile Press-Register , the negotiations between Riley and BP appear to have fallen apart because of King's lawsuit. The oil giant last week refused to pay the governor's $148 million claim, citing the attorney general's legal action.
"We told the governor that the added complexity of the litigation had made it difficult to resolve that," BP spokesman Justin Saia told the paper. "We said we would be unable to process that claim as it currently stands."
BP's decision means that state funding for education will have to be cut in the short term, and it immediately escalated the fight between Riley and King. Riley went after King for forcing the governor to make cuts to the education budget - which saw the biggest hit from lost tax revenues - two weeks before the end of the current fiscal year.
"If that lawsuit hadn't paralyzed our negotiations, we wouldn't have had to make these additional cuts to education funding," Riley said. "One man made a brash, reckless decision to sue BP while the state was still working to recover lost tax revenue from the company."
But King sees BP's decision not to pay the claim as vindication that the company - which has pledged in a multi-million dollar advertising campaign to "make it right" after the oil spill - cannot be trusted.
"We've tried it the governor's way, and it did not work," King said. "Now it is time for him to get out of the way and let us do our job. It is obvious that BP is not dealing in good faith and is using every excuse possible to keep from paying its obligations both to the individuals and business with claims, as well as to the state. You can't deal with a bully by bowing, scraping and begging. I said it before, and it is now obvious that BP never had any intention of paying this claim."Stateline reported last month on the fine line that governors, attorneys general and other state officials along the Gulf Coast are walking when it comes to BP. While they want to be reimbursed for substantial losses related to the oil spill, they are also reluctant to alienate one of the region's biggest employers. Some states are even fighting on the industry's behalf to allow deepwater drilling to begin again as soon as possible.