On Wednesday, Ken Feinberg and the GCCF released their methodology to show how interim and final payments will be determined. They highlighted a chorus of retained and consulted experts who expect the Gulf to be back to normal by 2012. They also pointed out, a few times, how claimants would be eligible for twice their documented 2010 damages and eligible oyster harvesters could receive four times the damage. The methodology document took great pains to point out the amount of study and research they put into coming up with their estimates and ideas, the number of experts who were consulted and the amount of documentation they would require from residents of the Gulf Coast.
But, since this came out a few hours before Judge Barbiers ruling that Feinberg and the GCCF must inform claimants they work for, and at the behest of British Petroleum, and not independently as they have been claiming for months, the methodology says nothing about the fact that all of the GCCF’s experts, all of the research, the study and the evaluation of the required documentation will come from agents either directly, or indirectly paid for by the same company who created this mess and loses every dollar that is paid out to claimants.
Keeping that in mind…some points about the GCCF document:
1. The two week public comment period: the released methodology points out that it is a draft, and they are inviting public comment upon their draft whereupon any changes they feel are necessary will be made.
Previous to this, however, the document states, “During the past several months, the GCCF has sought the advice and guidance of experts who have studied the present and future condition of the Gulf. In addition, the GCCF has benefitted from the valuable input of individuals and businesses whose economic livelihood depends upon Gulf resources, including those involved in all aspects of tourism, commercial and charter fishing and other industries including shrimping, crabbing, oyster harvesting, etc. The GCCF has sought a comprehensive understanding of the impact caused by the Deepwater Horizon Incident (the “Oil Spill”) and its aftermath. Experts retained by GCCF have pored through various reports and studies pertaining to the future of the Gulf, and have compiled an extensive list of references.”
It would appear the GCCF is pre-emptively staking a claim to change nothing, regardless of public input, political input, what have you input as they have already told you just how much research they have put into their methodology and evaluation of the Gulf, both environmentally and economically. The two week public comment period would appear to be the written version of Feinberg’s spoken word tour: talk much, change nothing.
2. The same problems with documentation: all through this process, those paying attention to this story have heard of the troubles with documentation. Feinberg has repeatedly called out claimants in the press for insufficient documentation, throwing the onus upon them, and then blaming this lack of substantial documentation for the slowdown of the process. It was the reason most often given for denying hundreds of thousands of claimants outright from the EAP program.
Yet in the GCCF methodology it states, “the documentation requirements for receiving either a Final Payment or an Interim Payment are more rigorous and exacting than the minimal documentation requirements that governed administration of the Emergency Advance Payment Program.”
More rigorous? Reports exist of people providing tax returns, profit and loss statements, legal estimates, practically handing over their firstborn as documentation, only to be denied. As Orange Beach Mayor, Tony Kennon says, “”What’s next — sodium pentathol and electro-shock therapy?”
Also, “The GCCF will not presume that a given loss was or was not caused by the Oil Spill, regardless of whether or not the claimant received an Emergency Advance Payment.”
This would appear to mean everybody must now start over, and as stated above, all the work, time and great pains each claimant went through to try to get an EAP…not only does this not necessarily mean they will automatically qualify for an interim or final payment, but now they will have to provide further documentation to prove it.
3. The entire methodology for fair compensation hinges on the Gulf being back to normal by 2012, two – three years from when this all began. This has been determined by a careful examination of the studies done so far by the experts, the experts retained by the GCCF which essentially means, indirectly retained by British Petroleum. This company has long been guilty of providing rosy determinations about the health of the Gulf, and why wouldn’t they? It benefits their bottom line, and now claimants will be expected to trust their experts.
“Feinberg used a report this week from John Tunnell Jr. at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi as the main basis for assumptions about when Gulf fisheries would recover. Tunnell’s report warns that his assessment was inherently inexact, but predicted that blue crabs, shrimp and fin fish catches should generally recover to pre-spill levels this year. He said some oyster beds would take six to 10 years to fully recover. Tunnell was paid $225 an hour by BP to serve as a consultant to Feinberg’s operation.”
To put it another way, the expert used by Feinberg to predict that all will be A-OK in the Gulf by 2012 was not only paid by British Petroleum, but the expert himself warns his assessment is “inherently inexact.”
This would seem to dictate then, Feinberg’s time-table for his methodology is the same.
Now, Feinberg states in his methodology they will continually reevaluate the health of the Gulf every four months and adjust their predictions accordingly but again, if the science used to come up with these determinations is conflicted, their accuracy and truth are now and will continue to be, debatable.
4. Transparency: the whole point in releasing Feinberg’s methodology was for greater transparency, but as Pedro Mandoki, a Gulf Coast business owner states, “It’s back to where we were, with no transparency…they’re saying ‘we’ll do whatever we want and then you can take it or leave it.’ I’m just questioning who those experts are. To me, this is just not going to fly. I have a real problem with it.”
Some of the biggest complaints regarding transparency have been no information given on why a claim was denied and conversely no information given on why a claim was paid, what is the criteria for payment, what demonstrates an oil spill related loss?
This document answers little to none of these questions, and that is now an even bigger problem as Feinberg and Co. have stated they will require even more “rigorous” documentation, but they have said precious little about what it is they are looking for, the intangibles, leaving residents operating from the same gray area they’ve been in for the past several months.
So, here we are again…The methodology is released, transparency is not increased and the closest we’ve gotten to honesty about this whole claims process came from Judge Barbier’s ruling that Feinberg cannot claim to be independent from British Petroleum because the facts show otherwise.
We have a two week public comment period that could be perceived as just a bit more written masturbation.
Gulf Coast residents asked for clarity and what they received were demands for more proof without guidelines as to what constitutes said proof.
And we get fanciful predictions about environmental and economic recovery, based on BP paid scientific evaluations that form the basis for the methodology.
In addition, public perception on the safety of the seafood coming from the Gulf could take far longer to improve than the health of the Gulf, itself.
As Lance Nacio, a Montegut fisherman reports: “It takes years and years to develop these businesses, and we have to recover again,” he said. “This is a man-made disaster, and we don’t know how long it is to overcome that. How do they know in two years or three years everything to be normal? What if public perception is like with Alaska?” Nacio said. “It took them a long time to rebuild their markets, and I don’t think in two years that market is going to rebuild. And what if we do have more shrimp and more people shrimping? We will be back working for a lower price. I don’t think this is going to do it.”
Agreed, I don’t think this is going to do it either. Just ask an Alaskan on Prince William Sound.
Have a nice day.