MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama Attorney General Troy King said yesterday he plans to sue BP, seeking tax revenue lost because of the impact of the Gulf oil spill on businesses and to recoup any state money spent on the cleanup.
King criticized the job BP and claims administrator Kenneth Feinberg have done in resolving claims. He did not have a timetable for filing the lawsuit or indicate how much money the state would seek.
“Make no mistake — we will be ready and we will pursue all violations of our state’s statutes and regulations and we will obtain complete financial restitution for all losses and impacts,” King said.
But a spokesman for Gov. Bob Riley, Todd Stacy, said talk of a lawsuit “seems premature.”
“There’s no dispute that BP is the responsible party and there’s no dispute they are going to pay,” Stacy said. He said Riley believes it would be better to attempt to resolve claims out of court.
King says the lawsuit will be filed by the Alabama law firm of Balch Bingham. The lawyers will get up to 14 percent of what they recover for the state. Stacy said Riley has not yet signed off on a contract to hire the lawyers. Under state law, the governor must approve state contracts.
The attorney general made the announcement at a news conference with the two nominees for governor, Republican Robert Bentley and Democrat Ron Sparks, who voiced support for King’s litigation.
King said he informed Riley’s staff of his plans but has not talked to the governor because Riley is overseas on an industry-hunting trip.
“We need to do everything we can to make sure we get every dime we are owed,” Sparks said.
Bentley said the oil spill could have a devastating effect on Alabama’s education and General Fund budgets, saying much of the state’s tax revenue that comes from coastal activities could be lost.
“There will be budget cuts that will be necessary,” said Bentley, a state representative who is a member of the House committee that prepares the education budget.
Sparks had requested the briefing from King. He asked that both candidates for governor receive the briefing because “I feel that it is important that the state present a unified, resolute position to BP.”
King was defeated in the June 1 Republican primary by Birmingham lawyer Luther Strange, who faces Montgomery attorney James Anderson in the November general election for attorney general. King said yesterday he had not briefed Strange and Anderson on the planned lawsuit and that he would not brief Strange because “he has a conflict of interest.” King repeated an allegation he made during the campaign that Strange represents the oil and gas industry.
Strange issued a statement repeating what he said during the campaign, that he does not currently represent oil companies.
“I have never provided legal services to BP or anyone involved in the spill,” Strange said.
Anderson said he would like to receive a briefing on the lawsuit from King.
“I certainly want to sit down with him and know what’s going on,” Anderson said. He said the legal system moves slowly and the lawsuit will likely still be in its early stages when the new attorney general takes office on Jan. 17.
King said he would have no problem briefing Anderson on the spill.