NEW ORLEANS —
All told, BP PLC says it has paid state and local governments more than $754 million as of March 31, and has reimbursed the federal government for another $694 million.
BP set few conditions on how states could use the money, stating only that it should go to mitigate the effects of the spill. The contracts require states to provide the company with at least an annual report on how the money has been used, BP spokeswoman Hejdi Feick said. But it's unclear what consequences, if any, the states could face if they didn't comply.
Some of the money BP doled out to states and municipalities hasn't been spent yet, but the AP's review accounts for more than $550 million of it. More than $400 million went toward clear needs like corralling the oil, propping up tourism and covering overtime.
Much of the remaining chunk consists of equally justifiable expenses, but it's also riddled with millions of dollars' worth of contracts and purchases with no clear connection to the spill, the AP found.
William Walker, executive director of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, said it's clear now that communities bought more equipment than they wound up needing. But he doesn't regret handing out BP's money freely.
"At the time we were making these decisions, there were millions of gallons of oil going into the Gulf of Mexico with no clear idea when it would stop," Walker said. "We didn't wait. We tried to get (grant money) into circulation as quickly as possible. We didn't have any extra time. We needed to move when we moved."
When oil from the ruptured Macondo well began to lap at Louisiana's marshes, BP deployed an army of workers to sop it up and hired contractors who specialize in disaster cleanup.