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The Nation

April 11, 2011

AP IMPACT: BP buys Gulf Coast millions in gear

(Continued)

NEW ORLEANS —

Louisiana doled out its initial $25 million to state agencies, including $10 million for the attorney general's office to devise its legal case against BP and the companies involved in the spill. State agencies spent nearly $9 million more on equipment, including boats, air monitoring units, mobile radios and life vests.

Local government leaders in Louisiana were left to lodge their requests for money directly with BP. Gov. Bobby Jindal's top budget adviser, Paul Rainwater, said the state's deal with BP specified that the money Louisiana got wasn't meant to replace anything that was supposed to go to the parishes.

Blue-collar Plaquemines Parish, which has absorbed some of the spill's worst environmental damage, has received slightly more than $1 million in BP money, of which $998,405 went to cover oil-related overtime and other payroll expenses.

"I didn't run up bills. I treated their money like I treated our own," said Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, an outspoken critic of BP and the federal government's response to the spill. "Maybe down the road I'll look and say we should have stockpiled."

___

When BP was heavily under attack from the top down for its response to the rapidly growing environmental disaster, the company started throwing huge sums of money at the problems it had in the water and on land. Cutting checks to governments along the coast addressed both issues, even if it meant waiting until later to figure out details like how officials would have to account for the cash.

"We recognized the importance of getting funding to the states, parishes and counties quickly, and therefore provided advance funding to help kick start their emergency response," Feick, the BP spokeswoman, said in an email.

The payments to governments gave BP the kind of good PR it desperately needed, said Daniel Keeney, president of a Dallas-based public relations firm. By giving money to communities and allowing them to spend it largely as they saw fit, BP also put a buffer between itself and any questionable spending.

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