Attorneys general from Alabama and Mississippi today urged a federal court judge to reject BP's attempt to block payments to some victims of the 2010 Gulf oil spill.
BP filed a lawsuit on March 15 in U.S. District Court in New Orleans seeking to block what could be billions of dollars in settlement payouts to businesses harmed by the catastrophe.
The London-based oil giant accused the court-appointed administrator for the settlement, Patrick Juneau, of trying to rewrite the terms of the deal. BP said Juneau violated the settlement in the way he calculated payments to businesses that filed claims.
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange said BP agreed to the terms of Juneau's settlement process in a court document signed by the company in February 2012.
"A legion of BP attorneys wrote and negotiated the terms of that agreement," Strange said. "But now, BP is objecting to the terms of the agreement it signed."
Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood accused BP of failing to honor its agreement with the court.
"BP has found it cannot dictate to a purely independent claims administrator like it did to its prior administrator Kenneth Feinberg," Hood said. "Claims administrator Juneau sent BP scenarios and possible results as to how the claims process on this issue worked and BP signed off on every one. Now BP is trying to go back on its word."
BP responded to the criticism today by saying that - as noted in its court filings - Juneau had misinterpreted the terms of its settlement agreement. The result, according to BP, is that Juneau "inappropriately and unfairly" paid claims to numerous businesses for non-existent losses.
"Such a result is completely at odds with the parties' stated intent in reaching a settlement," BP spokesman Scott Dean said in a statement to AL.com.
Strange blasted BP's court challenge as "consistent with (its) past behavior."
"At the same time BP lauds its efforts for restoring the Gulf in the media, it blames others in court for its own mistakes to avoid responsibility for its own conduct," he said.
"As usual, BP is wrong. If BP underestimated how much it would owe under the terms of its agreement, that is BP's problem-not the citizens'. BP cannot undo a settlement it negotiated and signed, just to avoid its consequences. The courts should not allow it."