East Baton Rouge Parish will receive $2.145 million in a settlement from BP for financial losses resulting from the 2010 Gulf oil spill, a small windfall with no strings attached, so officials will have full discretion over how to spend it.
“It’s money that was unanticipated that we have received, and now as a full body, the Mayor’s Office and the council will decide how to proceed,” Mayor-President Kip Holden said.
He said he expects they’ll consider using the one-time dollars for public safety uses, benefitting police, fire or Emergency Medical Services.
BP, the federal government and five states reached a tentative settlement last week over economic and environmental damages from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. The record $18.7 billion deal will steer much-needed resources into coastal restoration and help replenish cash-strapped local and state coffers across the Gulf Coast.
Louisiana is set to receive $6.8 billion, the largest portion among the five states. Of that, $5 billion will be spent repairing the disaster’s toll on natural resources, largely going toward coastal restoration and repairing wetlands and damaged wildlife habitats.
Another $1 billion will be used to cover the state’s economic losses from the spill. In addition, the state will receive $787 million of BP’s Clean Water Act penalties, which also is expected to be used to repair natural resources.
Apart from the $6.8 billion apportioned directly to Louisiana, the deal calls for up to $1 billion to be spent resolving loss claims with local governments across the Gulf Coast, including those in the Pelican State.
Visit Baton Rouge, the regional tourism bureau, received $65,000 from BP as part of the settlement. Of those funds, $20,000 will go toward attorney and accountant fees, leaving $45,000 for the agency.
It’s unclear how settlement amounts were arrived at for each municipality. Randy Piedrahita, an attorney representing the city-parish in its claim, said he couldn’t discuss the negotiations or how the settlement was calculated until after BP officially signs off on it.
Piedrahita’s firm Due, Price, Guidry, Piedrahita and Andrews and the Florida-based firm Farrell and Patel will receive 20 percent of the city-parish’s settlement for attorney’s fees — amounting to more than $400,000.
That number could have been doubled. When the attorney’s contract was initially signed in 2013 by the Mayor’s Office with only Farrell and Patel, the firm requested a 40 percent contingency fee.
Only after the Metro Council raised concerns about the high fee did the attorneys join with a local firm and lower the rate.
The East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council accepted the settlement at a Wednesday meeting.
At the meeting, the council also OK’d a $9.2 million budget supplement that includes a $700,000 appropriation to the District Attorney’s Office, which said it couldn’t pay the office’s salaries this year without the additional funds.
The budget appropriation also includes $2 million for city police to buy new vehicles. Lt. Jonny Dunnam, a Baton Rouge police spokesman, said the money will be used for about 35 new vehicles, 600 computers and four new servers.