Three years after the nation’s worst offshore oil disaster, Baton Rouge is seeking more than $35 million in lost taxes and other expenses the city alleges are the responsibility of London-based oil giant BP and several of its contractors.
The city’s lawsuit, filed late Friday, was assigned to U.S. District Judge James J. Brady.
The suit seeks more than $35 million in compensation for “past, present and future losses” caused by the April 20, 2010, explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. The disaster spewed at least 170 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The explosion also killed 11 men aboard the mobile offshore rig.
City officials hired a Coral Gables, Fla., law firm to pursue the suit against BP, rig owner Transocean Ltd. and other firms involved in work on BP’s well, about 50 miles south of Venice.
The city announced in the suit that it also will seek unspecified punitive damages against the defendants.
Ray Melick, media and communications director for the Gulf Coast Restoration Organization of BP America Inc., said in an email Monday that BP “would not comment on this issue at this time.”
City officials and their attorneys also would not discuss the case.
In their suit, Baton Rouge officials estimate that the disaster led to loss of more than $9 million in business, sales, occupancy and gambling taxes, along with reduced fines and fewer city licenses and permits.
An award of more than $35 million in compensatory damages is warranted, city officials allege in the suit, because negligence that contributed to destruction of the offshore rig caused “past, present and future losses” for Baton Rouge.
“The stigma and effect of the (oil) spill has drawn fewer tourists and customers to the City of Baton Rouge,” city officials allege in the suit.
Scott Dyer, spokesman for Mayor-President Kip Holden, declined to comment on the suit. Through Dyer, Chief Administrative Officer William Daniel also said he would not answer questions about the suit.
Spokeswoman Giannina Sopo, of the Coral Gables law firm of Farrell & Patel, said in an email: “At this time, Farell & Patel and the city of Baton Rouge have no comments.”
BP has pleaded guilty to manslaughter and other criminal charges and spent more than $24 billion on cleanup costs and compensation for businesses and individuals affected by the disaster. The oil company also has agreed to pay $4 billion in criminal penalties.
Two of BP’s well site leaders at the offshore rig, Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine, await trial on manslaughter charges.
BP and several of its subsidiaries and contractors have been in trial in federal court in New Orleans since Feb. 25 on civil allegations that negligence contributed to the fatal disaster that oiled beaches, marshlands and estuaries from western Louisiana to southern Florida.
Should U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier rule that BP was guilty of gross negligence, the firm could be ordered to pay nearly $18 billion in additional civil penalties.
The two-month-old proceedings in Barbier’s court in New Orleans are only the first phase of the current trial. A second phase will determine whether BP’s well leaked only 170 million gallons of crude into the Gulf. Other estimates range to more than 200 million gallons.
Defendants in the new suit by Baton Rouge include BP Exploration & Production Inc., BP America Production Co., BP PLC, Transocean Ltd., Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling Inc., Transocean Deepwater Inc. and Transocean Holdings LLC.
The other defendants in Baton Rouge are Triton Asset Leasing GMBH, Halliburton Energy Services Inc. and Sperry Drilling Services, a division of Halliburton Energy Services Inc.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.