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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

AG to head up oil spill litigation


Attorney General Luther Strange said Wednesday that his office has dismissed private attorneys brought in by his predecessor to handle a lawsuit related to the oil spill in the gulf of Mexico and that he will personally head up litigation related to the environmental and economic disaster.
Strange, in his second week in office, said he will be in New Orleans on Friday for a status hearing on the case before federal Judge Carl Barbier. He said the judge has the case on a fast track.
"We don't want to delay and we don't think BP wants to delay," Strange said.
The attorney general contends Alabama suffered more economic damage than other states due to the loss of tourism and related business on the coast and said the oil spill is his top personal priority.
"I think we've suffered significant damage," he said.
Strange said the case is being brought "in house" and that there are extremely well-qualified attorneys to handle it. The plaintiffs in the case include the federal government, the state of Alabama, businesses and others who have filed suit for damages to them.
Alabama is the only state that has filed a lawsuit against BP and other companies that are considered responsible for the oil spill.
While Strange, along with former Gov. Bob Riley, were early critics of the lawsuit filed by former Attorney General Troy King, Strange said Wednesday that it places Alabama "in a leadership role already."
"That was then. Now, I'm glad we're in court," Strange said.
Strange said BP has said they want to make the situation right.
"We're gonna hold them to that," he said.
Strange said they have not established how much Alabama lost due to the spill. He said they are working on those numbers.
"I think they're significant," Strange said.
Corey Maze, the special attorney general assigned to the oil spill, said there was an attorney in New Orleans on Wednesday taking depositions. In Alabama, they are working on the damages here, he said.
"Our job is to have our numbers ready," Maze said.
He said those numbers need to be ready in case BP wants to negotiate or in the event the case goes to trial.
"We will be prepared for a trial," Maze said.
When asked about a settlement, Maze questioned whether the defendants would want "to face an Alabama jury after what they did to Alabama."
Strange said he met with Kenneth Feinberg, who is administering the claims process, last week. He said he told Feinberg he was not happy with the situation and thought the claims process lacked transparency.
"I'm still very concerned about how he's handling himself," Strange said.
Strange said he hopes that it sends an important signal to the judge that this is a top priority for the state and its attorney general.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

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