The Lafayette Consolidated Government is reaching out to a New Orleans law firm to help navigate a possible settlement payment from BP in the massive class-action lawsuit for losses linked to the 2010 Gulf oil spill.
BP agreed to a tentative settlement earlier this month to pay the federal government, Louisiana and four other states a total $18.7 billion. Louisiana is set to receive $6.8 billion, and local governments across the Gulf Coast are in line to share up to $1 billion.
Several public entities in the state already have reached settlement agreements, but Lafayette’s claim for a share of the BP pie has yet to be resolved. The city-parish filed a claim in 2013.
City-parish officials argue the spill cooled the local economy and pulled down the sales tax revenue that fuels the city-parish budget.
East Baton Rouge Parish made similar claims and agreed this week to a $2.1 million settlement with BP.
Lafayette officials have declined to talk about how much money they are seeking or any aspect of the negotiations.
The council discussed the issue in a closed-door executive session on July 7 but took no action.
The council on Tuesday is set to review a proposed contract with the New Orleans law firm of Lewis, Kullman, Sterbcow & Abramson to handle settlement negotiations and to advise city-parish government on whether it should “accept proposed payments, appeal or opt out of the settlement,” according to documents filed with the council.
A final vote on the contract is set for Aug. 4. The law firm’s fee would be up to 15 percent of any payout.
Any money Lafayette receives in a settlement likely would have no strings attached and could be used for whatever leaders decide.
City-Parish President Joey Durel said in an email that there are no plans yet.
“Since we are uncertain of where this might go, we have not had any discussion,” he said.
City-Parish Council Chairman Kenneth Boudreaux said he is reluctant to even consider how any extra cash might be spent, considering the uncertainty of the settlement.
“We definitely don’t want to jump the gun on anything,” he said.
The city-parish is one of several public entities in Acadiana that have made a claim in the BP case.
Others include the Acadia Parish School Board; Franklin; St. Mary Parish government; the St. Mary Parish School Board; the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission; and the Twin Parish Port District in Delcambre.