BRADENTON, Fla. — Alabama Attorney General Troy King late Thursday filed lawsuits against BP PLC and BP America Inc. as well as drilling contractor Transocean Ltd. and related companies for their roles in the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Two nearly identical suits were filed in the U.S. District Court in Montgomery. BP and its subsidiaries are named as defendants in one suit. Transocean, Halliburton Energy Services Inc., Anadarko Petroleum Corp., and Cameron International Corp. are defendants in another suit.
Both complaints allege that negligence by the companies caused the explosion and fire that resulted in the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig on April 20 and the subsequent release of up to 60,000 barrels a day of crude oil into the Gulf for almost three months.
“This unprecedented environmental disaster, the largest marine oil release in the history of the United States, has caused and will continue to cause extensive economic, environmental, and other damage to the state of Alabama, including but not limited to Dauphin Island, the Port of Mobile, Weeks Bay, Gulf State Park, and the beaches of Baldwin and Mobile counties,” the suits said.
The suits also allege that the defendants “trespassed and continue to trespass by allowing oil, dispersants, and other materials and substances to contaminate state property.”
“As a direct and proximate result of defendants’ creation and continuing creating of a public nuisance, the state and its citizens have suffered past, present, and future losses in the form of, but not limited to, loss of income, loss of revenue for the state, and a substantial increase in expenditures for the state to combat, abate, and remedy the effects of the nuisances caused by the defendants,” the complaints said.
Jury trials were requested in both suits, which seek an unspecified amount of economic, compensatory, and punitive damages.
King had indicated in recent weeks that he would file suit. But he had been asked to hold off by Gov. Bob Riley, who felt that legal action would be premature.
In a statement released Friday, King indicated that he felt the timing was right to file suit based on “BP’s broken promises” and history of saying one thing while doing another.
“BP said that this was their disaster and they would accept responsibility for it,” King said. “Yet thousands wait while their claims are backed up in the system.”
BP has been “secretly working to gain a legal advantage” by retaining as many expert witnesses as possible so they would not be available to testify against the oil giant, King said. He also alleged that BP was working on ways to limit its liability and selling its assets “perhaps to divest themselves of assets that American courts could reach to satisfy a judgment.”
In response to the suit, BP said: “We can’t speak for Transocean or Anadarko but BP has already agreed to voluntarily pay all legitimate claims for economic losses. We have established a claims process with an initial amount of $20 billion from BP and we have already paid $352 million in claims.”
“The voluntary claims process that BP has established remains the surest and quickest way to get all legitimate claims paid and it’s the best way to ensure that the full amount goes to claimants and not to pay attorneys fees,” BP said.
King said the state’s lawsuit could always be settled “but it can never again be brought with the same strategic advantages we have right now.”
It is unknown if attorneys general from Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida are considering suits or joining Alabama’s suit at some point.