Coastal parishes claim BP owes millions for oil spill response expenses (VIDEO)


NEW ORLEANS – In the days, weeks and months following the start of the BP oil spill, parishes along southeast Louisiana’s coast found themselves on the front lines of a major ecological disaster. Jefferson Parish was one of them: they deployed staff, resources and assets to its coastal communities impacted by the spill.

“We were conducting helicopter overflights, spotting oil and alerting the Coast Guard, in many instances, to what was going on. We set up a command operation down there,” said Jefferson Parish President John Young.

Jefferson Parish estimates it spent millions of dollars to deal with the spill. BP paid them more than $4 million, but the parish says they are owed more – nearly $4 million more.

“They’re telling us the money is coming and they’re asking for additional documentation, which we’ve provided,” Young said.

Yet, it is not only Jefferson Parish which is owed money. BP also owed more than a million dollars to St. Bernard Parish.

“These are actual operational expenses that were incurred, were all verified and initiated by BP,” said St. Bernard Parish President Craig Taffaro. “So, we’re just hoping that these things can be resolved. We’ve been asking for weeks to try and resolve a time schedule, but we just haven’t gotten a firm answer yet.”

Now, Gov. Bobby Jindal is involved. He met with BP and parish officials this week, and said he is pressuring BP to pay the parishes what they are owed.

“None of us wants to end up in litigation, but certainly, the state and the parishes have legal rights,” said Gov. Jindal, R-Louisiana. “Again, we’ve pressed this with the CEO of BP to say this is not acceptable. These parishes did everything they were asked to do to help defend the coast from this oil.”

There may be another sticking point, though. BP and the Coast Guard have been trying to transition from the oil spill response to recovery. However, according to an agreement they negotiated with the state and parishes that transition can’t happen until each parish signs off on it. Young said that won’t happen, until Jefferson Parish gets the money it is owed.

Eyewitness News contacted BP on Friday for comment on this story. Those phone calls were not returned.

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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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