State will recover from oil spill

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 23, 2011

By Attorney General Luther Strange

Alabama is still reeling from the devastation that struck one year ago when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, killing 11 Americans and spewing millions of barrels of oil in to the Gulf of Mexico. The effects of April 20, 2010, continue to ravage the lives of far too many Alabamians who are crying for help. My pledge as their attorney general is that alleviating this crisis is a priority for my office.

Consequently, Alabama now stands at the forefront of federal litigation to hold responsible those who caused this catastrophe. By assuming personal control of the state’s lawsuit, I emphasized Alabama’s vital interest and saved the state millions in private attorneys’ fees. The federal district court overseeing this matter recognized our leadership by appointing Alabama as coordinating state over litigation nationwide. I mean for the defendants to understand that Alabama is deliberate and determined as they see me personally argue on the states’ behalf in court; question BP executives about their reckless behavior; and prove the defendants’ liability at trial. I will hold the responsible parties legally and financially accountable.

Without question, Alabama incurred the greatest economic damages from the oil spill than any other affected state. Our financial stability relies uniquely on the strength of our coastal economy and is completely dependent on the multiplier effect of tourism dollars.

The oil spill decimated our tourist season, and every family, business and asset related to our coast suffered a brutally harsh financial impact. No other Gulf state experienced damage as widespread and severe as did Alabama. The oiling of our beaches and the inevitable media attention over the summer created a national perception of Alabama’s beaches as damaged, resulting in vastly fewer people using our coastal resources and bringing tremendous economic losses.

Local fisherman, shrimpers, restaurant owners, retailers, real estate companies, charter boat captains and countless others are in financial and emotional dire straits. The consequences are painful, as cities and counties that needed to receive the usual tourism-based tax dollars for their budgets now struggle to survive.

Without the influx of Gulf Coast tax revenue, our state as a whole is feeling the aftershock as programs have been slashed from our General Fund budget.

The dysfunctional claims process managed by Ken Feinberg only exacerbates personal stress levels. The delay of processing claims, and the resulting desperation of claimants, adds an appalling burden to those who suffered the initial consequences of the oil spill.

Our victims are experiencing demoralization, with independent hard-working people being forced to ask for help, and essentially having to beg for relief in a manner that is humiliating for them. Feinberg’s legacy is being written. He can either help the people or help BP.

I commend every local and state official and worker who is devoted to seeing our economy rebound and our natural resources restored.

I have no doubt that Alabamians will rise above and persevere, and I will use every ounce of my energy, influence and power to protect this great state’s interest.