Rep. Joe Bonner of Alabama, member of the House Appropriations Committee called for an independent audit of the GCCF this week, something many Gulf Coast residents have been wanting to see happen for some time now. Bonner made this request to the Justice Department, and the request has been included in legislation that was approved on Wednesday.
“As we approach the one-year anniversary of the creation of the GCCF, many South Alabama businesses and individuals are still complaining about unfair treatment of their oil spill damage claims by the BP-financed fund that has been tightly controlled by administrator Ken Feinberg,” Congressman Bonner said. “With BP now calling for the GCCF to wind down payments, it is imperative that an accurate accounting of Mr. Feinberg’s claims system be made public. Last month, I met with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in Orange Beach personally asking him to order an impartial audit of the GCCF. Today, the House Appropriations Committee also called upon the Justice Department to begin the process of an independent review of the claims process.”
And speaking of independent audits, can’t we also make a call for an audit of BP’s insistence that the Gulf is all good, that the businesses and people no longer need the assistance of future compensation? As most people are aware, British Petroleum recently requested the GCCF stop paying all future claims in the Gulf of Mexico because things have recovered so damned well…
Except, they haven’t.
As Bloomberg reports:
“Crude oil continues to wash ashore along the Gulf of Mexico coast a year after BP stopped the flow from its damaged Macondo well, which caused the worst U.S. offshore spill,” government officials said…submerged mats of congealed oil, often resembling a mousse, are a source of the tar balls, Hein said. The areas with the most oil are Louisiana coastal marshes…”
And speaking of those marshy areas:
“Reporting on the bayou outside of Hopedale, La, Eric Guzman, a shrimp boat captain says, “BP likes for people to think that the skimming got rid of all the oil,” he said. “They don’t want you to think about how most of the oil went down to the bottom. We were dead set against them using those dispersants but they didn’t listen and they did it anyway… Guzman said the shrimp business has been hurt because, even though there is shrimp that have not been contaminated by the oil, people are afraid to take the chance on buying them. Prices have dropped, despite the smaller supplies, and people are going out of business. A bait shop operated by a shrimp boat captain interviewed by the People’s World right after the spill is going out of business.”
Yeah, and let’s talk again about the seafood:
BP maintains the seafood is safe to eat, and this is part of the reason they also say claims should stop being paid, but despite the all clear by the FDA, something funny’s going on in the water as evidenced by “…countless reports coming from up and down the Gulf Coast…the most troubling narratives come from local fishermen, crabbers and oyster harvesters – who are encountering not only dramatically smaller catches but also visibly sick, deformed and oiled seafood from Louisiana’s Grand Isle to the Florida panhandle. And we’ve got photos to prove it (see link).”
The reports include catches down 70%, businesses closing, copper colored stains, holes and burns in the crabs’ shells. A crab fisherman, Bruce Gerra reports: “Crabs have been coming up dead, discolored, or riddled with holes since last year’s spill. Now Guerra, and many of the crabbers that work for him, said they’re trapping 75 percent fewer crabs than they were pre-oil spill.”
Also recently, both Sen. Bill Nelson and Sen. Marco Rubio, both from Florida weighed in on how they feel about BP’s recovery estimations. Writes Sen Nelson: “BP doesn’t need to be protected from the citizenry. It’s the other way around…BP made a commitment… People are still hurting. And we don’t know what will happen in the future, plus there’re still claims in an appeals process and large claims that haven’t even been submitted yet.” Nelson said he thinks it could take years before the full extent of damages are known and based on that alone, BP should not be allowed to change the claims process.” Cue Sen Rubio, “BP, from a corporate perspective, is trying to get out of here as quickly as they can…they are trying to disengage from this process as soon as they can and I think it is incumbent on us policymakers to make sure that doesn’t happen and that BP fulfills its obligations to this region.”
Senator Rubio also held a recent meeting in Pensacola. Sixty people showed up to let him know just how badly things were going with a certain Mr. Feinberg. Bob Zales, president of the National Association of Charter Boat Operators summed things up rather nicely, “To many of us, the Gulf Coast Claims Facility is a massive failure,” he went on to say claims payments have been plagued by months long delays and “ridiculous offers.” Seconding this was Joe Gilchrist, co-owner of Flora-Bama Lounge and Package, who said many frustrations stem from a murky and inconsistent claims process, “A lot of arbitrary decisions are being made by people nobody can find or hold accountable.”
That sounds like those all too familiar GCCF transparency problems.
But back to BP where the oil company is making those self-serving claims: all is well, steadily getting better, they actually use the words “remarkably improving,” to describe the Gulf Coast. Bob Dudley, CEO of BP had this to say about it, including their new plans for drilling safety, “BP’s commitment in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon incident is not only to restore the economic and environmental conditions among the affected areas of the Gulf Coast, but also to apply what we have learned to improve the way we operate.”
Making things whole, again…wonderful soundbite but poor in practice. Months ago, BP said claimants were being paid too much in damages and now, BP says claimants should stop being paid altogether, even while businesses continue to close as a result of this spill. And when it comes to statements about the safety of their drilling practices, be skeptical, be very skeptical. It’s a sure bet they were talking up their safety practices before the refinery blew in Texas City, killing 15 and injuring 170, just as I’m sure they were maintaining the safety of their drilling on the Deepwater Horizon before it exploded and killed eleven more.
Bob Dudley, like Ken Feinberg can say all he wants to, but the words just aren’t too credible, not yet, not by a long shot.
Now, it’s time for BP to prove a few things, prove they will do what they’ve been saying all along, spend more time making the Gulf Coast whole and their practices safe, less time making whole their profits. After all, from what I’ve read about the money made by the oil industry, they all got that whole profit thing covered by a mile…
Have a nice day.