Alabama leaders say they knew nothing about BP claims meeting


BP PLC’s incoming CEO told reporters Sunday that the company would meet Monday with top state officials to confer about Alabama’s oil spill damages — but state leaders said they knew nothing about it.

When the news story appeared, “that was the first I’d heard of that,” Attorney General Troy King said Monday.

Jeff Emerson, a spokesman for Gov. Bob Riley added: “We’re not aware of any meeting.”

Company officials said later Monday that the sit-down with BP’s Bob Dudley was expected to take place in September, although uncertainty was still apparent.

“Scheduling conflicts amongst a variety of parties resulted in that meeting being moved back to the 13th” of September, company spokesman Justin Saia said Monday. “We’re happy to meet as soon as possible.”

Monday afternoon, another BP spokesman, Ray Melick, told the Press-Register that there could be scheduling conflicts for Sept. 13, and no definite date had been set.

Earlier this month, Alabama made a $148 million claim against BP as a result of the spill, and King filed lawsuits against the company seeking unspecified damages. BP officials have said both issues would be on the meeting agenda.

Dudley, who is scheduled to become BP’s CEO Oct. 1, said Sunday at the Southern Governors’ Association meeting in Hoover that, “BP is going to meet with state officials tomorrow, along with representatives of the attorney general’s office, to look at the claim and try to understand more the basis of the claim and what (are the) next steps.”

King said Monday, “I don’t know what he’s talking about.”

Saia said the company had tried to set up the meeting as early as Monday, but was unable to do so.

According to Saia, the eventual meeting will mainly focus on the lawsuit, but the state’s damages claim could also come up. He characterized it as an “introductory meeting between all parties.”

Dudley said Sunday that the state’s lawsuits, which King filed over Riley’s objections, could delay BP from acting on the state’s damages claim. The claim and lawsuit were both filed on Aug. 12.

BP wants to resolve claims faster, and with fewer court battles, than took place after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Dudley said.

“We hadn’t even really read the claim before the lawsuit came. I mean, it was that quick,” Dudley said. “I don’t think that was the ideal way for us to evaluate a claim.”

King said he did not “rush to file a lawsuit,” noting that the oil spill began more than four months ago.

“This didn’t happen last Tuesday,” he said. “They’ve had plenty of time to pay claims and to prove themselves responsible, and instead what they’ve proven is, they’ve got a track record of broken promises.”

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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