On Wednesday, the Mobile County Commission approved a $1.8 million settlement BP with related to its standalone claims of economic damages incurred by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill 2010.
Separate settlements with municipalities have been reached since an $18.7 billion settlement between BP and the five Gulf Coast states was announced July 2.County officials referred to the event as “disastrous for the area,” and this morning the three-member commission voted unanimously at an emergency meeting to approve the settlement.
Though it’s been referred to as a settlement, the number the commission approved on Wednesday was actually a recommendation from a three-member panel set up as part of an Early Neutral Evaluation process. Mobile County and several other municipalities had until July 15 to accept or deny the offer.
Though most accepted, others — like Orange Beach — have rejected their offers. Those municipalities will have to wait on another offer or resolve the matter at trial.
Like the settlements related to each of the five Gulf states, many of the details related to these proceedings are also protected by the court’s seal of confidentiality. Frederick T. Kuykendall III, counsel to several Gulf coast municipalities and private parties, spoke to Lagniappe on Thursday about what he could.
“As an officer of the Court who has been placed under a Seal of confidentiality, I am limited in what I am allowed to share about many aspects of the pending process of resolution,” Kuykendall said. “There is a good bit of public information that has leaked out, and I would caution folks not to rush to judgement as to fairness of the process, especially given the fact that it was overseen by highly qualified court-appointed Neutrals.”
Kuykendall went on to say the efforts of the individual municipalities helped advanced a “complete resolution” to the “worst environmental disaster in the history of the Untied States.”
Mobile County resolved its claim for damages last week and was represented by Birmingham attorney Rob Riley and Frederick Kuykendall, an attorney based in Washington, D.C. That same pair represented several other coastal communities — including Baldwin County — in a number of individual civil cases against BP.
The commission filed the claims to recover lost revenue associated with the spill, including lost tourism and decreased sales taxes. However, the nature of settlement leaves the details of those losses undisclosed.
Mobile County is not alone. Other coastal municipalities like Baldwin County, Fairhope and Biloxi, Mississippi have also settled claims with BP this week. According to a statement to its investors, BP agreed to pay up to $1 billion to resolve individual claims filed by more than 400 local government entities across the five Gulf states that experienced economic damages from the oil spill.
The $1.8 million for Mobile County will go into the general fund, but how it’s spent will be up to the three commissioners. In a prepared statement, Vice President Merceria Ludgood said the Commission would “decide as a body how to allocate those funds during (the county’s) upcoming budget discussions.”
However, in the same release, Commission President Jerry Carl said he was already eyeing the money to give a pay increases to the county’s employees.
“The settlement will go toward the General Fund and we can use it toward pay raises for county employees,” Carl said. However, a public information officer for the county later said that idea was “just the opinion of Commissioner Carl.”
According to Mobile County Attorney Jay Ross, about $308,000 of the settlement will be used to cover legal fees and other expenses related to the county’s individual claim against BP.
Updated at 12:12 p.m. on July 16 to include comments from Attorney Frederick T. Kuykendall III.