MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Alabama's attorney general is suing BP and others over the Gulf oil spill because he says the oil company has broken too many promises about accepting responsibility for the disaster.
Attorney General Troy King filed two lawsuits in federal court in Montgomery late Thursday afternoon on behalf of the state. The lawsuits — one against BP and the other against Transocean, Halliburton and other companies associated with the spill — seek economic and punitive damages. No specific amount was listed.
The lawsuit accuses them of damaging Alabama's coast and economy through "negligent or wanton failure to adhere to recognized industry standards."
BP spokesman Justin Saia said the company had not seen the lawsuit and had no comment. At least 300 federal lawsuits have been filed in 12 states against BP and the other three main companies involved in the April 20 explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon drill rig, which triggered the disaster.
King sued against the wishes of fellow Republican, Gov. Bob Riley, who hopes to reach an out-of-court settlement with the companies.
BP was leasing the rig Deepwater Horizon from owner-operator Transocean Ltd. when it exploded and sank, killing 11 workers. Halliburton Energy Services Inc., had been working to cap the well that ended up leaking with cement prior to the explosion. The broken well spewed some 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf for three months before it was plugged.
Riley spokesman Todd Stacy said the governor had not seen the lawsuits. He said the state is still compiling a list of economic damages that it will submit to BP soon. If the company doesn't provide fair and fast compensation, then the state would have a dispute.
"When there is a dispute, then a lawsuit is appropriate," he said.
King said his move is not premature.
"As Alabama's lawyer, I say that, if anything, based on BP's broken promises, their history of saying one thing and doing another, and now, new information that they have been secretly working to gain a legal advance, further delay can only further damage our people," King said.
He said BP is retaining the best expert witnesses to keep the other side from using them to testify against BP and is selling assets perhaps to keep an American court from reaching them to satisfy a judgment.
Riley appointed King as attorney general in 2004. But since then, they have become adversaries. Riley created the task force on gambling because King wouldn't take action against electronic bingo games at casinos. They've been battling it out in the courts over whether the task force has the authority to raid the casinos and seize the games.
As for the spill, a team of economic experts is still trying to put a figure on the state's economic losses.
King will be out of office before the lawsuit makes much progress in court. He lost the Republican primary June 1 to Birmingham lawyer Luther Strange. Strange said King should have consulted with the governor and Gulf coast mayors to make sure the litigation doesn't hurt ongoing negotiations with BP.
The Democratic nominee for attorney general, Montgomery lawyer James Anderson, said King may have had a stronger case if he brought in Alabama cities and counties affected by the spill and possibly even other Gulf states.
He said BP has already lined up some of the top lawyers in the state, and the attorney general's office will have to bring in outside lawyers with experience in this type of litigation if it hopes to win.
"We've got plenty of time to add on attorneys," said Chris Bence, the attorney general's chief of staff.