BP answers Jindal criticism

A day after Gov. Bobby Jindal accused BP of splashing out more on advertising than coastal restoration, the company fired back.

The vice president and head of U.S. communications for BP, Geoff Morrell, issued a statement Thursday accusing Jindal and the governor’s coastal adviser, Garret Graves, of making over-the-top statements and overblown demands.

Morrell wrote: “Their political grandstanding contains patently false assertions, defies the demonstrated record of environmental recovery that has occurred across the Gulf, and defames the massive efforts of tens of thousands of people to foster prompt recovery and restoration.”

Jindal flew to Florida on Thursday for the Americans for Prosperity’s summit.

Graves issued a statement Thursday night in response to Morrell’s criticism.

Graves wrote: “For the past year, BP’s clear strategy in this case has been to try to portray themselves as the victim ... BP is not a victim of this disaster. No matter what they say or do, the families of the deceased and the citizens of the Gulf are the victims and we are going to fight to hold BP accountable for their actions.”

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion killed 11 men, and resulted in a three-month discharge of 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana.

BP said it has spent billions of dollars on response, cleanup and claims. Still to be determined are Clean Water Act penalties and natural resource damage payments.

Jindal told the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council in New Orleans on Wednesday that BP needs to start addressing the next round of liabilities rather than focus on an advertising campaign.

Morrell said litigation will determine the Clean Water Act penalties.

He said the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process and the courts will decide the natural resource damage payments.

“Suggestions by Governor Jindal and Mr. Graves that BP is dragging its feet with respect to Clean Water Act and natural resource damages payments conveniently ignore that the law provides for these amounts to be determined through the judicial and regulatory process — to which BP is subject — not their own political whim,” Morrell said.

Graves said BP launched a $500 million “Make It Right” campaign aimed at public image improvement.

“Just this week, BP had the audacity to file statements with the court suggesting that they are not responsible for paying any of the up to $17 billion in RESTORE Act funding for Gulf Coast states, counties and parishes for recovery and restoration. Their gross negligence and irresponsible behavior has no limits,” Graves said.

Morrell said BP has not spent more on advertising than on restoration.