A bipartisan group of attorneys general from the five Gulf Coast states asked President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday to help ensure a unified state-federal response to the oil spill spreading off their coastlines.
In a letter, Lousiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and the attorneys general from Texas, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida said their states have already experienced significant harm from BP's oil spill, which is blackening waters in the Gulf of Mexico.
"In addition to the enormous threatened natural resource damages, our states have already suffered the great costs of early removal and response actions and stand to lose additional taxes, fees, and other revenue as a result of this incident as well as the losses likely to be suffered by our citizens and businesses," they said, possibly setting the stage for a legal claim against the British energy company.
The attorneys general suggested that a state-federal working group be created to avoid duplicating damage assessments, enforcement efforts and possible litigation following the spill, which continues to put about 5,000 barrels, or 210,000 gallons, of oil into Gulf waters.
"Whether final resolution of this matter is through a formal legal process with BP and others or in the context of an amicable resolution, we believe that the sensible course is for the various state and federal agencies responsible for enforcement and litigation activities to work together toward a common goal and to avoid any unnecessary duplication of our effort," the letter said.
BP officials have assured the attorneys general that "any responsible claim will be compensated." BP said last week that it "takes responsibility for responding to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill," which the U.S. Coast Guard said reached the southeastern Chandeleur Islands of Louisiana today.
Already, London-based BP has given Gulf States, except Texas, grants of $25 million to pay the first round of cleanup costs. The attorneys general are seeking cleanup funds from BP contractors Transocean Ltd., Halliburton Energy Services Inc. and Cameron International Corp.
"We recognize that BP has stated publicly that it will live up to its obligation to pay all claims arising from this environmental and economic disaster," the AGs' letter said. "We hope that BP will. But we would be remiss in our responsibilities if we did not consider the possibility that enforcement or litigation efforts may be required in the future."
The massive oil spill stems from a series of explosions on April 20 at BP's Mississippi Canyon #252, an off-shore drilling site approximately 52 miles from Venice, La. The explosion occurred on an off-shore platform known as Deepwater Horizon, which BP leased from Transocean Ltd. Eleven people were killed in the explosion.
In addition to Caldwell, the other attorneys general who signed the letter were Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, Alabama Attorney General Troy King and Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood.