The city of Houston, Harris County and Metro netted $23 million in compensation from BP for revenue they could not collect in the wake of the company’s 2010 Gulf oil spill, officials announced Thursday.
Houston will pocket about $12.2 million from the costliest environmental lawsuit in U.S. history to cover hotel and sales tax shortfalls. The Metropolitan Transit Authority will receive more than $9.2 million for lost sales tax revenue, and Harris County will get $2.1 million for lost hotel occupancy tax revenues, officials announced in a joint statement.
However, expenses for the case and fees for two outside lawyers who represented the city, county and Metro will carve off nearly 40 percent of those totals.
Nearby communities and government entities, including the city of Galveston, Jefferson County, the city of Beaumont, and Orange Port Authority also are among the 511 entities that said the spill caused an economic shortfall.
The payouts are part of the $18.7 billion that BP agreed to pay earlier this month for damages and penalties resulting from the Deepwater Horizon spill – the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.
Houston Mayor Annise Parker and Harris County Commissioners Steve Radack and Jack Morman said they were satisfied with the settlement. Commissioners Court has not yet determined how the county will split the money.
“Frankly, I wish we would have gotten more, but certainly it was a worthwhile lawsuit,” Radack said.
Several commissioners received a total of 1,700 identical emails from BP employees, via a server in United Arab Emirates, urging them not to pursue legal action against the company, according to Soard at the County Attorney’s office.
County Judge Ed Emmett, who voted in Commissioners Court against seeking damages, said, “I thought it was a stretch to say that we lost so much revenue because people didn’t rent hotel rooms here because of the BP spill.”
“Am I glad the county won? Sure. Would we have been part of the lawsuit if it had been just up to me? Probably not.”
He said he was disappointed the county would only to realize $1.3 million after the lawyers took their cut. Commissioner R. Jack Cagle had also voted against entering the lawsuit, in his case because he thought the county attorney could handle the case.
As to whether it was appropriate to seek damages, Janice Evans, spokeswoman for the mayor, said, “We raised the same exact issues as more than 500 other governmental entities and all parties have agreed to this, as has the court, so we would not characterize it as opportunist.”
Whether the amount that these three entities will receive is “enough” is not one I can answer, nor can I answer it for the 500 others involved in the litigation, not to mention BP itself. It’s something, and I’m quite sure it will be put to good use.