La. attorney general says money low for BP suits

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - The Louisiana Attorney General's Office says it's running out of money to pay for litigation over the 2010 BP PLC oil spill.

Rene Free, director of administrative services for state Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, tells The Advocate that no new money was appropriated in the current year's budget for Deepwater Horizon litigation. Caldwell asked for an additional $16.2 million in July at the start of the budget year, she says. Caldwell's office sought a budget adjustment made during the fiscal year when the Legislature is not in session.

"We don't ask for more money than we need cash-wise to pay current bills, but we definitely need more spending authority and more cash," Free said.

The funding problem comes as the state is facing a budget shortfall that has prompted reductions in agencies across state government. State revenues have not kept up with earlier projections and had to be adjusted downward recently.

First Assistant Attorney General Trey Phillips said the state must prepare for a trial scheduled for February, though Louisiana issues are likely to be handled later. So far, he says work has cost $6 million.

"We have been able to patch things together to get this far ... After the first of the year, we will be asking for additional spending authority," First Assistant Attorney General Trey Phillips said.

Michael DiResto, spokesman for the Division of Administration, says $4.8 million in spending authority was carried forward from last year's budget for legal work.

"We will work with the AG if additional resources are needed," he said.

The April 2010 blowout of BP's Macondo well triggered an explosion that killed 11 rig workers and spilled more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf, closing much of it for months to commercial and recreational fishing and shrimping. Among issues left to be litigated is identifying the causes of BP's blowout and assigning percentages of fault to the companies involved.

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