Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood and other Gulf states attorneys general will meet today with Ken Feinberg, BP claims administrator for the Obama administration, to present a protocol for residents filing claims against the oil giant for damages due to the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.
"The lessons of Hurricane Katrina, where the state of Mississippi was forced to establish a claims process, have shown us the importance of a transparent claims procedure to ensure that our Coastal residents can survive during the current oil spill without the worry of having to sign releases," Hood said in a statement. "The Coastal attorneys general have worked to force BP to implement such a process."
Hood met yesterday with directors of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, the Department of Marine Resources and the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks to coordinate the state's investigation and claims. Next week, Hood intends to meet with other experts and agencies to ensure that his office "is prepared for litigation, if necessary."
Gov. Haley Barbour said that he has asked Hood in a July 28 letter to "refrain from filing suit against BP until the claims process and the Natural Resource Damage Assessment have a chance to work. A lawsuit may interrupt the payment of claims," Barbour said in a statement yesterday.
"Undoubtedly, filing suit against BP now is not in the interests of Mississippi and its fishermen, shrimpers, and charter boat captains, to name a few," Barbour wrote. "I want those people and businesses with legitimate claims to recover their rightful damages; I want the State of Mississippi to recover for its economic losses and damages to restore any natural resources damaged by the spill. Premature litigation would benefit a handful of plaintiff lawyers in the long term but likely harm claimants who would otherwise be paid in the near term."
Hood countered Barbour's request in his Thursday statement: "I will continue to work with the Department of Justice, Mr. Feinberg and BP to make sure that the State of Mississippi and its citizens collect every dime that they are owed by whatever means is necessary and proper according to the law."