(MONTGOMERY)— Yesterday, BP announced that it had rejected Alabama’s claim for tax losses resulting from BP’s oil rig disaster. Predictably, Governor Riley blamed me. He and I both know, however, that this lawsuit did not produce proration. Proration is when the state budgets have to be cut across the board because the State is spending more money than it is taking in.
In fact, the Governor had put Alabama in proration long before the oil rig exploded. Everyone was shocked when Governor Riley announced just eight months ago during his annual State of the State address that Alabama didn’t need to cut spending, and would actually increase spending. This irresponsible budget is what caused proration in the first place.
While the Governor’s and BP’s statements were disappointing, neither of them was surprising. Certainly, BP’s promise to put the Gulf back the way they found it rings hollow to the tens of thousands of individuals and businesses who are still waiting for their claims to be paid.
In fact, it is precisely because of BP's record of not living up to their commitments that I sued them. Ever since BP tricked the first fisherman in Bayou La Batre into signing the first waiver form to collect the first payment, I have been warning that BP could not be trusted.
After all, BP is not a charitable foundation looking to make grants; it is a giant international corporation with an obligation to its stockholders to maximize its profits.
I have repeatedly asked Governor Riley to lay aside his personal agenda and to work with me to defend Alabama. He has refused every time. So my message today is not directed to him. Instead, I speak directly to BP – your days of using Governor Riley and exploiting the State’s financial problems are over.
You have easily manipulated Governor Riley, and as a result, he has unwittingly protected your interests. In just four months you have spent more money on your slick public relations advertising campaign than you have paying our citizens’ claims and you should be ashamed. You have strung our Governor along for four months with promises that you would solve his financial crisis.
All the while you never intended to willingly pay his claim. The Governor’s failure to fully document his claim gave you an excuse to reject it – and you did. Your decision not to process Governor Riley’s claim “as presented,” however, did not surprise me. I never expected you to voluntarily pay. Your divide and conquer tactics are obvious to everyone … except, apparently, the Governor.
Governor Riley has chosen to negotiate with you from a position of weakness. The Governor seems unable to see beyond the end of the few months left in his term and has approached you as a panhandler begging for crumbs. In fact, the Governor became complicit in helping you avoid paying with his desperate grab for enough money, not to make Alabama whole, but to avoid further state budget proration before his term ends. I have chosen an approach of strength.
If you will not pay Alabama what it owes, a court will force you to do so. You have not paid the other Gulf coast states either – states that have filed claims, but are not yet suing you. Oddly and in stark contrast to Alabama’s $148 million claim, our neighboring states have fixed their damage at far greater amounts – Florida has filed a $1.1 billion claim, and Louisiana has publicly stated its intention to seek nearly $9 billion in its claim.
Alabama should not settle for pennies on the dollar of what we are due. The State’s lawsuit was necessary when it was filed, and it is even more necessary now. It is clear that you are not dealing in good faith and are using lies, excuses, and even Alabama’s own Governor to keep from paying your obligations to individuals, businesses, and the State.
Now, to the people of Alabama, I call on Governor Riley again to stop attempting to block the Attorney General’s Office from protecting the people of Alabama. The lawsuit I have filed will require full accountability from BP. Unlike the Governor, I will not rush our claim and settle for whatever BP is willing to pay. Instead, I will prepare a properly documented claim and demand what Alabama is owed.