About four months ago, Lafayette native Patrick Juneau found himself in a New Orleans hotel room with BP president Bob Dudley, U.S. Magistrate Judge Sally Shushan and former FBI director Louis Freeh to discuss one of the largest legal settlements in history.
“It is in fact the largest settlement paid by a single party,” Juneau said.
Wednesday marks the deadline for more than 500 local entities, from school board to mosquito control boards, in five Gulf coast states to accept proposals from British Petroleum as part of on an $18 billion settlement.
Juneau, a corporate attorney for Lafayette-based Juneau and David law firm, has been involved with the individual claims process since 2012.
A few months ago, Juneau was asked to meet with Dudley, who flew in from London to start clean on the settlement process, he said.
“He had never met me before,” Juneau. “And we’re down in a hotel room in New Orleans. He said he wanted to ‘reset the button.’ I told him that it was certainly a good thing to do. If you don’t have communication, how are you going to solve any problems? So we did that.”
Juneau, Shushan and Freeh were then appointed by District Court Judge Carl Barbier as neutrals in the settlement at the federal, state and local levels.
“That started the intense, extremely time-consuming effort that was initiated about two-and-a-half months ago,” he said. “We met with the U.S. Department of Justice that represented five federal agencies, some in New Orleans and some in Washington, D.C.”
Federal negotiations took six weeks of 15-hour workdays and weekends before reaching an agreement, Juneau said. Then came state negations and, now, the local level.
No word from local officials on how much Lafayette has been offered in the settlement.
BP has also agreed to pay more than $5 billion in coastal restoration for Louisiana.
Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell said details of the settlement will be laid out over the next 60 days.
Along with its historical significance, the agreement brings long awaited funding to the state’s coast and what Juneau says he thinks is proof that the U.S. Justice System works.
“First of all, no one thought it could be done. Secondly, no one dreamed that it be done in that span of time,” he said. “The third thing is it accomplishes things in Louisiana that we’ve been talking about for years. It is over $5 billion to this state in terms of natural resources restoration to the coast.
“There’s never been anything like it. I’m a Louisiana boy. I’ve been here all my life. We’ve been talking about restoration of the coastal land since I was a kid. This is the first major step to get all that accomplished.”