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General News    H3'ed 2/18/11

BP to Feinberg: stop paying people so much

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Rocky Kistner
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Just when you thought BP couldn't top former CEO Tony Hayward's ham-handed statements last summer, it appears the giant oil conglomerate still has the mojo to make gulf residents' blood boil.

Today, news reports revealed that the oil conglomerate filed comments stating BP claims administrator Ken Feinberg has been way too generous with his payments to people in the Gulf. According to comments BP posted  on the Gulf Coast Claims Facility website, BP says Feinberg's estimates of the damage caused by the historic blowout were way too pessimistic and that his calculations for payments to impacted Gulf residents are off base and inaccurate.

The oil giant, which just posted 4th quarter profits of $3.4 billion (likely to skyrocket as oil has spikes again), apparently thinks everything is rosy down in the Gulf. Its comments called the December shrimp catch was the best in five years. On top of that, BP says the battered oyster industry may not have been affected by the oil anyway.

Some down in the Gulf don't share BP's views about the claims process. In October 2010, NRDC partnered with StoryCorps and Bridge the Gulf to record, share, and preserve the stories and experiences of those living through the BP oil disaster.Rosina and Geraldine Philippe of Grand Bayou, LA, talk about their experience.

Below are some of BP's comments posted to the claims website: 

   [BP] believes that the draft methodology's key assumptions regarding risk of future loss are not supported by actual data or by the analysis of the GCCF's own consultants. There is simply no factual basis to assume, as the GCCF proposes, that, Gulf-wide, claimants will experience losses in 2011 equaling 70% of their 2010 losses and losses in 2012 equaling 30% of 2010 losses, so that final payments should be twice the amount of actual substantiated loss.

And here's what BP said about the devastated oyster beds:

 "Moreover, it is important to note that some senior Gulf state regulatory officials are reporting that damage to oyster beds in 2010 was not caused by the spill or the fresh water diversion; rather, it was caused by increased water temperature and lower levels of dissolved oxygen."

All of this doesn't match what we've been hearing from people in the Gulf. NRDC's Daniel Hinerfeld's  blog says it allBP to Gulf victims: Sorry we ruined your life. Nowgo away. Watch some of the compelling video slideshows here that NRDC has produced of people impacted by the BP oil disaster and make up your own minds.

I spoke to a few people I've written about as well. JJ Creppel, a fisherman and Native American in Buras, LA, said he finally got a check this week from BP after months of trying. JJ desperately needed money to get back on his feet and start fishing again, so he filed a quick claim process that Feinberg said would guarantee checks within 14 days. JJ says it took them 8 weeks, and he had to hire a lawyer to get it.

"If I had know it was going to take that long and I would have to pay a lawyer to help me to get my claim, I would have just waited," JJ says. "But I know others around here who filed the same way I did and still don't have their checks.

Many others are still waiting too. Annette Arnaud of Laura's restaurant  in Grand Isle, LA, confirmed they still haven't received their claims check since they filed last summer. Their business has teetered on the edge of bankruptcy.

Kindra Arnesen, wife of a Venice, LA, fisherman, says she knows one fisherman who waited months to get his check. "When he finally got it and tried to cash it, it didn't clear. They had stopped payment on it because of some paperwork problem. The whole system is set up to fail."

So while Ken Feinberg is getting hit with stinging criticism from the public and members of congress that he's not paying people fast enough, BP has hit back and says he's paying too much. These kinds of tactics may be a legal maneuver for the looming courtroom battles ahead. But in the court of public opinion, it's another huge black eye for BP.

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Rocky Kistner is a media associate with the Natural Resources Defense Council. Since June, 2010, he has focused on the BP oil disaster in the Gulf, working out of NRDC's Gulf Resource Center in Buras, LA. He is a been a print and broadcast (more...)
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