Ken Paxton

Monday, May 3, 2010

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott Joins Gulf States Coalition to Protect Texas Resources Threatened by BP Oil Spill

AUSTIN Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today announced the formation of the Gulf States Coalition, a group of attorneys general from the Gulf States that are working to coordinate their response to the oil spill that threatens the Gulf Coast.

Attorneys General from Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida met yesterday in Mobile, Alabama to discuss how they can work jointly to protect their states’ threatened natural resources, coastal businesses, and taxpayer dollars in the wake of the explosion and resulting oil spill at an off-shore drilling facility operated by British Petroleum, LLP. During yesterday’s meeting, which was organized and hosted by Alabama Attorney General Troy King, the attorneys general received briefings from emergency response officials with the U.S. Coast Guard and BP.

The oil spill threatens precious environmental, ecological and wildlife resources across the Gulf Coast, Attorney General Abbott said. Our top focus is ensuring that BP makes good on its promise to fully compensate individuals, coastal businesses and taxpayers for any expenses incurred during the clean-up effort. We will work with state and local officials to ensure that BP reimburses any expenditure of taxpayer resources and will focus on ensuring that BP’s compensation process is not overly burdensome or bureaucratic for coastal residents and small businesses.

According to BP officials, no oil from the spill has reached the Texas coast and the 72-hour projections released yesterday do not indicate that Texas will be affected in the next 48 hours. However, the situation in Texas is subject to changes in wind and tidal patterns.

During the briefing, the attorneys general expressed concern about the tremendous state and local resources that will be spent remediating damage to affected areas of the Gulf Coast. Yesterday, BP officials assured the attorneys general that any responsible claim will be compensated. That commitment was reiterated this morning when BP announced that it takes responsibility for responding to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and promised to pay all necessary and appropriate clean-up costs.

While BP has made multiple assurances that it will cover clean-up costs, the attorneys general asked when funds would be made available to businesses and local governments that have suffered financial harm or incurred financial costs as a result of the oil spill. The costs that BP has agreed to cover include: costs associated with the assessment, mitigation and cleanup of spilled oil; real and property damage caused by the oil; personal injury caused by the spill; commercial losses including loss of earnings or profit; and other losses as contemplated by applicable laws and regulations. BP released the details of its claims process earlier today. Coastal residents and businesses that have claims can contact BP about their claims at the following number: 1 (800) 440-0858.

During the briefing with BP officials, the attorneys general also expressed concerns about which costs will be compensated and requested that BP administer a fair and reasonable claims process that is not overly complicated or burdensome on small businesses.

Immediately after the formal briefing concluded, the attorneys general met privately and agreed to work cooperatively on a series of measures that will help protect their states from the impact of this ecological, environmental and economic disaster.

During yesterday’s briefing, BP officials indicated that 5,000 barrels of hydrocarbons are leaking into the Gulf of Mexico each day. The leak stems from a series of explosions on April 20, 2010, at BP’s Mississippi Canyon #252, an off-shore drilling site approximately 52 miles from Venice, Louisiana. BP officials said yesterday that there was an initial explosion, which was followed approximately 10 minutes later by a second deadly explosion that killed 11 workers. The explosion occurred on an off-shore platform known as Deepwater Horizon, which BP leased from Transocean, Ltd.

Because off-shore minerals are owned by the federal government, the Mississippi Canyon #252 was being developed by BP under a lease with the U.S. Minerals Management Service. At the time of the explosion, 126 people were on the Deepwater Horizon. In addition to the 11 individuals who were killed, 17 additional workers were injured three of them critically.

Yesterday’s meeting was hosted by Alabama Attorney General Troy King at the Arthur R. Outlaw Convention Center in Mobile, which is also where the Unified Command Joint Information Center has been established. The Unified Command is a coordinated federal response effort that includes the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of the Interior, British Petroleum and Transocean, Inc.

According to officials with the Unified Command, nearly 2,000 personnel are involved in the response effort. To date, 23,968 barrels (1,006,656 gallons) of an oil-water mix have been removed from the Gulf. Six staging areas have been established to protect sensitive shorelines in the following locations: Biloxi, Miss.; Pensacola, Fla.; Venice, La.; Pascagoula, Miss.; Theodore, Ala.; and Port Sulphur, La.

The following Gulf State attorneys general attended yesterday’s meeting in Mobile: Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, Alabama Attorney General Troy King, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood and Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.

A BP subsidiary, BP Products North America, Inc., is currently the defendant in an environmental enforcement action that the Texas Attorney General’s Office filed on June 4, 2009, after a deadly explosion at BP’s Texas City refinery. In that case, BP Products is charged with violating state health, safety and environmental protection laws, including the Texas Clean Air Act, the Texas Water Code, and the Texas Health & Safety Code. The state’s 97-page enforcement action cites 46 separate unlawful pollutant emissions at BP’s Texas City refinery, including the emission linked to the March 2005 explosion that killed 15 workers and injured