Louisiana requests trial to decide $1 billion spill claim against BP

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 25, 2012 2:08 PM
Louisiana requests trial to decide $1 billion spill claim against BP

HOUSTON (Reuters) - The state of Louisiana has asked a federal judge to declare a jury trial to decide on its claim for more than $1 billion from BP Plc to compensate the state for economic losses resulting from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

In a filing on Wednesday, Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell asked U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans to set a free-standing trial that would be separate from the massive three-part case that Barbier is overseeing to determine liability for the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

That trial, to determine billions of dollars in liability for the spill, is set to get under way on January 14, 2013, in New Orleans.

Barbier has largely stayed government damages claims until liability for the spill is determined, leaving Louisiana with no recourse to recover damages, the state said.

"Because proceedings on damages resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill are stayed, Louisiana essentially has no recourse through the legal process," Louisiana said in its filing.

Louisiana said its 2010 lost revenue claim from the spill "exceeds $1 billion," with the majority of claims falling into four categories: lost income and franchise tax, mineral royalties and severance tax, state sales tax, and taxes from offshore oil and gas drilling.

This is the first time the state has quantified its economic losses from the spill, and it did not provide any more details on how the sum breaks down.

"This lost revenue stream is very important to the state's ability to provide essential public services," the state said.

"We will respond to the motion as directed by the court," BP said in a statement. However, BP said the court addressed Louisiana's economic claims in September when it found that the state's request was "claim splitting" and inconsistent with the schedule set for the first two phases of the trial, which will address liability for the rig explosion and efforts to cap the well, respectively.

Louisiana said BP should not be allowed to offset the state's claims with the $22 billion the company says it has spent on containing and cleaning up the spill and paying claims.

The April 20, 2010, explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon killed 11 rig workers and unleashed a torrent of oil from the Macondo well that spewed 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 straight days.

That oil fouled the shorelines of four Gulf Coast states and eclipsed the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska in severity.

(Reporting By Chris Baltimore; Editing by Peter Galloway)