11 East Coast AGs pen letter to BP -- Cuccinelli writes his own
The attorneys general of every state on the East Coast, from Maine to Georgia, sent a joint letter to top executives at BP Monday asking the company to take a series of measures as they prepare for the "foreseeable risk of substantial harm" from oil drifting up the coast.
Every state, that is, except Virginia. (A correction: New Jersey also did not sign the joint letter.) Declining to sign on to the joint missive, whose signatories include Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler, nine other Democrats and one Republican, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) today penned his his own letter to BP. Cuccinelli spokesman Brian Gottstein said Cuccinelli was asked to sign the joint letter but decided to write his own after the group declined to add language Cuccinelli requested.
Both letters cite the possible harm that could come from oil invading coastal communities as oil continues to spill in the Gulf of Mexico after an explosion on a BP oil drilling platform in April. Both ask BP to appoint a contact person to communicate with the attorneys general in these non-Gulf states. And both legalistically ask BP to preserve all documents relevant to the spill and the company's clean-up efforts, presumably in case of legal action. Actions BP was likely already taking? Almost certainly. A good way for the attorneys general to get a piece of the "hold BP accountable" pie? Absolutely.
So what language did Cuccinelli want to add? It appears Virginia's attorney general added paragraph near the end of the letter asking BP to work with the federal clean-up effort to "remove barriers to clean-up initiatives by state and local governments." He also asked BP to join him in urging the federal government to "accept the offers from America's overseas allies to assist in the clean-up and recovery efforts" and to "take whatever steps may be necessary to facilitate that assistance including, but not limited to, a temporary wavier of the Jones Act restrictions on shipping."
Both represent common criticisms from conservatives of the clean-up effort as led by the Obama Administration -- that the president hasn't accepted offers of help from allies and that he has refused to waive the Jones Act, a protectionist law that puts restrictions on foreign ships operating in American waters. Some have accused Obama of hesitating to lift the act at the behest of unionized ship workers, and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Tex.) has introduced a bill to require the administration to waive the act. The White House has insisted it has been accepting foreign assistance and that the Jones Act has not been a problem.
Meanwhile, it appears that Cuccinelli has also removed a paragraph from the letter signed by other attorneys general that called on BP to formalize its public commitments
and "provide further assurances" regarding payment of legitimate claims from the oil spill.
As with much of what Cuccinelli does, his letter to BP will probably please some and annoy others. After all, he refused to go along to get along and sign a letter to the company that didn't say exactly what he thought it should say. On the other hand, he insisted on his own letter rather than taking part in an effort to present a unified front to the oil behemoth. And it would appear that the issue that had him going his own way was his desire to use the BP letter as a way to offer some criticism of the federal government.
June 21, 2010; 5:27 PM ET
Categories: Ken Cuccinelli , Rosalind Helderman
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