Gov. Barbour asks AG to hold off on suit against BP

JACKSON, MS (WLOX) - JACKSON, MS (WLOX) - Governor Haley Barbour is trying to help out the oil spill claims process. The governor has asked state Attorney General Jim Hood to refrain from filing a suit against BP until the claims process has a chance to work. Barbour worries a lawsuit could interrupt claims payments.

"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," Governor 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."

So far, BP has paid $65 million to the state to offset costs incurred by agencies and local governments and to help tourism campaigns. And while BP is not paying claims as fast as Barbour would like them to, the governor said those payments are a lot faster than a lawsuit.

Barbour said when the State of Alaska decided to sue Exxon for recovery of damages caused by the Exxon Valdez disaster, Exxon ceased paying claims.

"Given the number of claims, it is highly unlikely that all claims will be resolved without the need for litigation," Governor Barbour wrote in a letter. "However, if you sue BP now, then, as happened in Alaska, the process that is currently paying claims on a regular basis may grind to a halt." @@

Thursday afternoon, Attorney General Jim Hood responded to the governor saying he would "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."

Hood said after a panel discussion in Biloxi Friday, he and two other coastal attorneys general plan to meet with BP claims administrator Ken Feinberg to present a written claims protocol.

"Next week, I intend to meet with other experts and agencies to ensure that the Office of Attorney General is prepared for litigation, if necessary," Hood said.

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