MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange has spent much of the 15 months he has been in office pursuing efforts to recover losses by Alabama and other states because of the massive BP oil spill.
With the second anniversary of the April 20, 2010 Gulf oil spill coming Friday, Strange believes he can see light at the end of the tunnel.
Details of a proposed settlement were presented to a federal judge Wednesday in New Orleans in the lawsuit involving private claims. Strange hopes the case involving claims of lost revenue by Alabama and Louisiana will be ready to go to trial this fall or will be settled. Those losses include tax revenue that was lost because of the spill and also money the states spent on the clean-up effort.
Strange said during an interview with the Associated Press in his Montgomery office Wednesday that he believes the state must be able to show it is ready to go to trial before BP will be ready to engage in serious settlement discussions.
Strange said is co-coordinating counsel for the states' case against BP. He said he hopes a settlement of the private claims will spur the judge to set a new trial date for the states' case.
"In order to have serious settlement talks we have to be ready to try the case," Strange said.
He said with the current desperate financial condition of the state it's important to pursue a settlement but he wants to make sure BP doesn't take advantage of the state and rush a bad settlement through because of the state's hurting finances.
The state's budget for most non-education expenses was recently cut by more than 10 percent and the budget for the upcoming fiscal year is facing harsher cuts.
"We're open to a settlement, but it has to be fair," Strange said.
The explosion that caused the spill on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig occurred more than six months before Strange was elected attorney general. He said he didn't realize at the time the impact the spill would have on the Gulf Coast.
"But I used to work on a (oil rig) supply boat in the North Sea and know the dangers involved," Strange said.
Strange said he feels the effects of the spill were greatest on Alabama than other Gulf Coast states because the state has pristine beaches, a vibrant commercial seafood industry and bountiful wildlife.
The attorney general said he's pleased with how the state has so far bounced back from the spill.
"The beach is prettier than ever. I hope this will be the best season ever," Strange said.