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Lawmakers earmark $15M to pay for Louisiana's continued case against BP for Gulf oil spill

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BATON ROUGE, Louisiana — Lawmakers added $15 million Friday to the attorney general's budget to pay for Louisiana's ongoing legal case against BP for damages caused by the 2010 Gulf oil spill.

Without the money, Attorney General Buddy Caldwell's office had said its casework would grind to a halt in the current fiscal year that began July 1.

To cover costs of the legal work, the Legislature's joint budget committee tapped into money from a set-aside fund that includes fees, taxes and penalties paid by the oil industry. The earmark was approved without objection.

But the fund doesn't contain the full amount needed for the litigation spending, so the treasury will borrow from other available pools of state money to cover the attorney general's costs until the fund balance catches up. Travis McIlwain, a budget analyst with the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Office, said the fund brings in about $8 million a year.

Louisiana sued London-based BP PLC, owner of the blown-out well that spewed more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf, for environmental and economic damages to the state. Those claims are the subject of ongoing federal litigation.

Caldwell's office said the money allocated Friday largely will pay for outside attorneys and experts working on the litigation.

Nearly $45 million had been spent on the work before the latest infusion of cash, according to a Legislative Fiscal Office analysis.

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