Barbour to Hood: Hold off on suing BP

by Wally Northway

Published: July 30,2010

Tags: courts, disaster, energy, environment, lawsuit, offshore drilling, oil and gas, oil spill

JACKSON — Gov Haley Barbour asked Attorney General Jim Hood yesterday to refrain from filing suit against BP until the claims process and the Natural Resource Damage Assessment have a chance to work.

A lawsuit may interrupt the payment of claims, Barbour said.

“Undoubtedly, filing suit against BP now is not in the interests of Mississippi and its fishermen, shrimpers and charter boat captains, to name a few,” Barbour wrote. “I want those people and businesses with legitimate claims to recover their rightful damages; I want the State of Mississippi to recover for its economic losses and damages to restore any natural resources damaged by the spill. Premature litigation would benefit a handful of plaintiff lawyers in the long term, but likely harm claimants who would otherwise be paid in the near term.”

Barbour, citing the Exxon Valdez case, believes the third-party claims process overseen by Ken Feinberg and the NRDA process overseen by executive director of Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Trudy Fisher, should be given a chance to work.

“Given the number of claims, it is highly unlikely that all claims will be resolved without the need for litigation,” Barbour wrote in a letter. “However, if you sue BP now, then, as happened in Alaska, the process that is currently paying claims on a regular basis may grind to a halt.”

Barbour stated he has confidence that experts at the state’s universities and agencies, such as the DEQ, will examine the oil spill’s impact on Mississippi environmentally and economically.

So far, BP has paid $65 million to the state to offset costs incurred by agencies and local governments and to aid tourism promotional campaigns.

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