At $18.7 billion, it’s the largest civil settlement ever recorded with a single entity — BP Plc — and the biggest environmental settlement ever, but did the Gulf of Mexico states walk away with a good deal in early July when the oil spill settlement for state and local claims was announced?
It’s “not a good deal, ” U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Fairhope, told the political website Yellowhammer after it was announced. “If you look at the settlement, the vast majority of dollars are flowing through the federal bureaucracy or through state government into the General Fund, which we know has so many problems. So this settlement goes against the intent and, I think, in many ways, the actual wording of the RESTORE Act.”
A few days later, on July 8, Byrne told AL.com that the state would be getting $405 million less than what the governor’s office initially said. Byrne said the previously reported $2.3 billion figure included money already paid to the state that shouldn’t have figured into the final settlement number.
But just like pancakes, every story has two sides. “I think it’s a great settlement for the state of Alabama and the entire Gulf Coast, ” says Rhon Jones, principal and toxic torts section head for the Beasley, Allen law firm. Jones and his firm worked alongside the governor and Attorney General Luther Strange to reach the settlement.
“Any time you make a settlement, it’s a compromise, but had this gone to trial BP would have appealed to the 11th Circuit and the Supreme Court. With the settlement, there’s every possibility the money will start flowing in 2016.”
Alabama’s negotiating position was strengthened by cooperation between its governor and attorney general, Jones said.
Text by Dave Helms