The Investigators: Gov. Edwards, La. Attorney General fight over BP settlement money

The Investigators: Gov. Edwards, La. Attorney General fight over BP settlement money

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - BP has cut the first check in the settlement involving the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil spill. It has been made out to the State of Louisiana, but there is a battle brewing over who gets the money.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and Governor John Bel Edwards' office both have strong opinions on where it should go. Their arguments are laid out in a series of letters between each and State Treasurer John Kennedy.

The Investigators obtained four letters written to Kennedy over who should get a cut BP's first settlement payout to the state of $20 million.

Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne said he does not understand why there is so much confusion.

"Clearly every dollar that comes into the state from the BP settlement is intended to go to the coastal protection," Dardenne said.

However, in a letter to Kennedy on May 4, Landry wrote, "The first payment of $20 million was always and still is intended to reimburse the state, through the Attorney General, for costs and legal fees associated with general litigation in the case."

In a second letter, the very next day, the AG instructs Kennedy to "immediately transfer $7 million from the initial $20 million payment from BP" as approved by the legislature last year, but Dardenne said that transfer no longer stands.

"All this business about last year the legislature authorized a transfer between the two agencies that was done in contemplation of litigation the case settled," Dardenne said.

Furthermore, Matthew Block, executive counsel for the governor, argued "The Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator's Office has transferred $29 million to the Attorney General's Office for fees and costs" related to the spill.

The Governor's Office soon learned Kennedy deposited the $7 million into the AG's account anyway. While, the Governor's Office believes the AG's Office is getting paid twice to cover those costs, Kennedy stands by that action.

"The legislature did direct, under the former governor, that the $7 million goes to the AG," Kennedy said.

The Governor's Office is concerned that another move like that could be dangerous to the state's economy and put ongoing coastal restoration projects at risk.

As for where the next installments of the BP settlement will go, Kennedy said he will have no part in which agencies gets the money.

"They all make good arguments. They are good lawyers, but at the end of the day it is up to the legislature," Kennedy said.

Kennedy wrote a letter to the legislature letting lawmakers know about the dispute and also asking them to decide where the remaining $13 million of the $20 million payout should go.

There are two additional payments that are due to the State of Louisiana. One in the amount of $19,125,000 is due in early June. A final payment in the amount of $200 million due in early July is for "economic damages" affiliated with the oil spill.

Attorney General Landry declined to be interviewed.

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