In an article published online last evening, David Hammer of the Times-Picayune called into question whether over 50,000 plaintiffs attempting to sue BP in the trial beginning February 27th would have their suits rendered ineligible for compensation because they didn’t try to get money from Feinberg’s Gulf Coast Claims Facility first.
“The “presentment” issue could endanger 60 percent of them (court claims). In August, Barbier ruled that claims under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 would have to meet presentment requirements – to seek redress from BP or its designee, Feinberg – to be eligible for compensation.”
Over 50,000 claims potentially knocked out before we even get started? Wait a minute, don’t these 50,000 plaintiffs have attorneys from the Plaintiff Steering Committee? Let’s assume more than a few of them do. Okay then, so what happens if all 50,000 of these legal claims are thrown out of court by Judge Barbier, over half of all the private legal claims? On what basis did the members of the Plaintiff Steering Committee not advise their clients to go ahead and file with Feinberg first, just to get it out of the way? Hell, the claims wouldn’t have even had to be all that detailed, right?
Kind of a legal technicality sort of thing?
“Dear Ken, please send me fourteen dollars for lost wages, contracts, time, illness, etc…”
And then when Ken and the GCCF offers a nickel, the plaintiff turns him down and all done!
Legal requirement satisfied! On to the MDL!
Okay…well how about one more small question:
If 50,000 plus claimants get tossed out, this would seem to indicate that the Plaintiff Steering Committee could have been doing a much better job of steering the plaintiffs, so then shouldn’t they be forced to turn down the 6 percent that Feinberg is now holding back from claimants who actually do settle with the GCCF, all $650,000 dollars of it so far?
Because if you’re getting that 6% for claimants indirectly benefitting from your legal expertise and your legal expertise kinda blows, it would seem they should get their indirect money back…
Rising Tide 6 is coming to Xavier University on August 27th, from 9am-6pm…so really, go register, you won’t regret it…
Keynote speakers will be David Simon, creator and executive producer of Treme, and Richard Campenella, who among other things, wrote Bienville’s Dilemma which is a great, great book about the geography of New Orleans and how it contributed to or even defined much of the city’s history…I’m fortunate enough to have read it myself and it’s definitely worthwhile.
And that’s not all…there’ll be a bar too, and panel discussions about Social Media and Social Justice, the British Petroleum Catastraphuk, New Orleans Food, Brass Bands, a performance by the TBC Brass Band and they’ll of course be handing out the Ashley Morris Award (cough, cough, my pick: Slabbed) and I would imagine of particular interest to the people who check this site often would be the “Re-Capping the Well Panel”:
Panel Discussion:Re-capping the well The aftermath of the Macondo oil disaster and the future of the Gulf Coast. A discussion about how what’s just happened over the past year will affect the land and the people for years to come.
Moderator: Alex Woodward – staff writer, Gambit, covering the environment, arts and culture of south Louisiana.
Anne Rolfes – Founding director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade. Anne began her organizing career in West Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer in Togo. It was there that she first witnessed the destruction of oil production. After six years of working on Nigerian issues, Anne returned to Louisiana in 1999 to protect her home state from petrochemical pollution. Anne was born and raised in Lafayette, Louisiana where many people made their fortunes from the oil industry. She has seen the wealth and the poverty created by oil production and seeks to make the industry more equitable. In October 2007 Anne was recognized by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation as a Community Health Leader.
David Hammer – An award-winning reporter for The Times-Picayune in New Orleans. He led the paper’s investigation of what went wrong on the Deepwater Horizon rig and broke several stories about key engineering decisions that contributed to the BP well blowout. His beats since the oil spill also include the drilling moratorium and Kenneth Feinberg’s administration of spill claims. Hammer is a seventh-generation New Orleanian and a graduate of Harvard University. He worked five years for newspapers in New England and four years with The Associated Press.
Dr. Len Bahr – The former director of the Governor’s Applied Coastal Science Program who currently publishes the La Coast Post website.
Drake Toulouse– A BP and Gulf Coast Claims Facility critic who writes at Disenfranchised Citizen
Yeah, that guy at the bottom of the above list, that would be me, on a stage, in front of people, with the expectation I will say things, even say things loud enough so others can hear me say things. I’ll be easy to spot…just look for the guy with the casual, confident expression of sweating terror speaking great truths from behind the biggest beer glass I can find…
Rising Tide 6!
Definitely check it out…went to my first last year and it was worth it, informative and a hell of a lot of fun with good people…
Congratulations, and thanks much for the continued coverage of the spill and aftermath…
“Times-Picayune reporter David Hammer won a national environmental reporting award Monday for his coverage of the BP oil spill. The Society of Environmental Journalists announced the winners of the 2010-2011 Awards for Reporting on the Environment.
Hammer reported on the risky decisions and lax safety practices that led to the April 20, 2010, explosion on the Deepwater Horizon, which killed 11 and unleashed the largest oil spill in U.S. history. Many of the issues his reporting raised were later discussed in the report from the national commission that investigated the spill.
Ken Feinberg, in an article from yesterday’s Times-Picayune, reports the pace of payments by the GCCF have improved, sped up and are finally hitting their stride. In the article by David Hammer, it is reported the average amount of final payments have increased, as has the percentage of final payments paid, also, the GCCF has processed 95% of the 300,000 claims that were filed before the month of May.
All true…and if these were the only measuring sticks we had, we should all be so impressed.
Unfortunately, there’s more to this story:
Yes, the average of the final payments are up from $16,000 to $20,000 dollars and whereas yes, this is an improvement, is it enough to compensate for all damages past, present and future, making the people whole? I don’t know, how much did you make last year? How much did the people in the Gulf make last year? Was it more than $20,000 dollars, and considering we know some larger companies have received payments as high as ten million dollars, what do these large sums do to the average payment of the average fisherman, average tour guide, average restaurant worker…average anybody, that’s a question I’d like an answer too. How much are the specific payments? Unfortunately, these questions will remain unanswered, because Ken’s promises of greater transparency have never materialized…
Yes, the percentage of final payments continue to rise. He has paid 26% of the final payments that have been filed, course it is fourteen months after the oil began to spill, and many have yet to get back to work while very few are earning what they did before the Deepwater Horizon exploded. It would seem that congratulating Feinberg for the percentage of claims paid rising is akin to congratulating someone for doing what they were hired to do, what they’ve been paid handsomely to do, and in this particular case, ignoring the exceedingly long time it took to get there…and, how much further Ken still has to go…
Yes, the GCCF has processed 95% of the 300,000 claims made. Impressive, except that 40% of those were denials and due to a lack of transparency, we don’t know why and according to many of those denied, they don’t always quite understand why either. Also, a large percentage of those 300,000 claims were of the quick claims variety which stipulated no questions asked, individuals get $5,000 and businesses get $25,000 dollars or in other words, the simplest of claims to process. This means the majority of those claims still waiting to be processed are the most complex and time consuming. Do we congratulate the high school graduate for demonstrating a mastery of addition and subtraction?
So, Feinberg still has three quarters of the claims to pay, continues to pay what would seem a small amount to claimants and has processed the easiest claims first…but he’s hitting his stride…all while financial desperation remains, with thousand upon thousands of claims waiting.
And there’s more…as the article continues:
“Catholic Charities case managers say they haven’t seen too many of the 1,300 fishers who have reportedly taken full-review final settlements from Feinberg. They have, on the other hand, seen thousands who have been denied interim payments on a quarterly basis. Federal law requires Feinberg to pay for ongoing losses without forcing claimants to sign away their rights to sue. But he’s made only 16,000 such payments.
Tom Costanza of Catholic Charities said most of the interim payment offers are minuscule and are attached to final payment offers. Even if those final offers aren’t close to what the claimant requested, the prospect of another quarter without aid is often too much to bear. He said that 70 percent of the claimants who have turned to state-financed technical assistance advisers for help are still waiting for resolution. “I just can’t see how this is moving in the right direction,” Costanza said. The stalemate is most pronounced with subsistence claims, a crucial issue in the Gulf Coast’s fishing-centric Vietnamese communities.”
As has been the case since the GCCF’s methodology was put into place…the quick payments were done ASAP while the final payments were slowly worked on, but seemingly neglected for the most part in all this are the interim payments. The interim payments are the only claim one can file which does not require the claimant to waive their right to sue British Petroleum. As Tom Costanza says above, when miserly interim checks arrive to the claimant, also accompanied by a final offer…can we finally put to rest the idea that Ken and the GCCF aren’t trying to coerce as many as possible into signing away their legal rights? Because yes, it would certainly seem the message being sent to those filing interim claims is as follows: not only will you wait the longest, your checks will be quite small, but take a look at what you could have if you accept the final payment…all you gotta do is sign by the “X”.
Meanwhile, it remains quite obvious that many, many people continue to be upset with the GCCF process…hell, as recently as this past week, people continue to post comments on this blog expressing their dissatisfaction…but of course, Ken has his supporters as well, Mike Voisin, owner of a Motivatit Seafood is mostly pleased with Feinberg and the GCCF, “I think Ken’s gonna make it right,” Voisin said. “We have a responsible party that I believe is acting responsibly in this case. Will people fall through the cracks? Certainly. You have this many claims, it will overwhelm even Ken Feinberg…”
Okay, but what of those people who fall through the cracks? Of the the well over 100,000 people denied outright by the GCCF, how many of those claims might have been legitimate? How many of those were indeed claims that simply fell through the cracks?
Want to know how many should be allowed to so fall?
Yes, this is a very exacting amount, something that will be very difficult to do, but so what? Nobody on the Gulf Coast or beyond asked for the oil spill, therefore nobody should be left behind. Nobody. It isn’t like the escrow money is running out. By Ken’s own estimates, he’s still sitting on almost $16 billion dollars of the $20 billion allotted. Nobody should be left behind, because when someone falls through the cracks, this is what it looks like:
“The chief engineer aboard a supply boat that was near the Deepwater Horizon when it exploded, and whose company quickly began working for BP in the cleanup, claims he was pushed into accepting a settlement for debilitating oil spill-related illness before the extent of his injuries was known.
Clayton Matherne says he accepted a $21,000 settlement from Guilbeau Marine without realizing that in doing so he was giving up his rights to get anything from BP. He says his medical bills have come to $700,000 and he still is dangerously ill, “The president of the United States and the federal government of the United States promised to protect us, but since the oil spill in 2010, they’ve chosen to turn a blind eye,” Clayton Matherne told Courthouse News in a telephone interview.
At an oil spill summit at the Hilton in New Orleans on anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion, Kenneth Feinberg, who oversees BP’s $20 billion claims process at the Gulf Coast Claims Facility abruptly ended a public meeting shortly after Matherne asked him how it was that the Gulf Coast Claims Facility had managed to lose all of Matherne’s medical records seven times. “The GCCF says they don’t have enough documentation to pay a $100,000 claim, when in fact this amount is only half – I’ve faxed my medical records seven times,” Matherne told Feinberg at the meeting. “Where are medical claims going?”
“We will honor all claims,” Feinberg said, then asked: “Was there evidence the medical condition was on account of oil?” Feinberg told Louisiana lawmakers this month that the GCCF had not seen a single claim for oil-related illnesses on the Gulf Coast. “Did Feinberg follow up? No!” Matherne said in the interview. Neither did Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu.”
Nobody should be left behind…
Feinberg should stay at it for as long as it takes…
And so the Gulf Coast can be sure anyone entitled a payment receives a payment, Feinberg should finally open his books, once and for all…without greater transparency, the Gulf Coast will never really know what is happening here.
Taking Ken’s word for it, as I’ve written before, is as much a thing of the past as Bobby Jindal’s sand berms.
Feinberg is the man who said he was neutral until Judge Barbier said he wasn’t. Feinberg is the man who said there were no health claims, and then quotes popped up where he discussed the health claims he’d received, and denied. This is also the man who told many claimants at town hall meetings he would follow-up with them personally, then never did. Finally, he’s the man who said he was coming to the rescue of the Gulf Coast, only to make too many, far too many, feel they needed rescue from his Gulf Coast Claims Facility.
So ultimately, yes…Ken Feinberg can “say” whatever he wants…that he is hitting his stride, but what he is actually “doing” still leaves much to be desired.
Hey, I thought this whole oil spill deal was all kinda, you know…over.
At least that’s the impression I got watching all them there sparkly British Petroleum commercials, but man, over the past two days, the news has been flying pretty serious again in the Gulf, and between you, me, the courts and the water…I think this has just begun…Maybe I just got distracted by the hockey playoffs…
What? What do you want? I never said I wasn’t from the north…
Archbishop Gregory Aymond got on bended knees and put his arms around two women, listened to the damage BP and the GCCF have wrought and did his best to console them. The women had come to Catholic Charities in Violet for counseling and help with their spill damage claims.
Turns out one of the women, Lois Neville of Violet is yet another one of those people who Ken Feinberg, BP paid administrator of the GCCF and $20 billion escrow fund is saying…well, golly gosh gee, must have slipped through the cracks…hey, mistakes get made, do you know how many claims we’ve received, we’re working as fast as we can…etc…ad nauseum.
Funny thing though, BP was helping her financially, but all payments stopped when Feinberg took over…and she filed for her final settlement, and well past the 90 day time limit Feinberg gave himself to present final offers, she is still waiting…
In her words from David Hammer’s article in the Times-Picayune:
“I’m barely making ends meet with my savings and rental income, and I’m depressed, I’m stressed out,” Neville said. “I get very angry. I hate to even watch the news because there are other people in a worse predicament than me.”
Depressed and stressed out…like thousands of others, yet BP has closed the coffers on funding for mental health in the Gulf Coast…maybe when they said, making things right…they meant everything but the mind.
And hey, why might Ms. Neville still be waiting for her final claim?
It’s been a year since the oil spilled.
Well, on the GCCF front…Feinberg will tell any reporter who listens how he has paid out $3.9 billion dollars of that escrow fund…and apparently, he is quite proud of this fact…lord knows why…after all that means…he hasn’t paid out $16 billion dollars…and of that 3.9, it’s mostly quick payments…very few final offers, and even fewer interim payments…so what gives? Oh…right, right: mistakes get made, do you know how many claims we’ve received and we’re working as fast as we can…got it. Um, bullshit? Not to mention, how convenient was it for Feinberg, the day before the anniversary, the day before the press was to descend all over the Gulf Coast, to suddenly issue the largest final offer to date to Omega Protein Corp, $44.8 million dollars total. I’m sure the timing of this was coincidental, of course…Feinberg couldn’t possibly be such a cynical asshole to present this offer as some sort of distraction to the press, you know, so the coverage might be a bit more balanced as the press goes out to find the countless Lois Neville’s across the Gulf Coast, the ones seeking counseling because they are struggling not to lose everything, again, a year later…
And speaking of unhappy people in the Gulf…well, let the lawsuits begin, and rightfully so…
70,000 people have filed suit in the Gulf in a maritime law proceeding brought by rig owner Transocean, using a form that also expanded the suit to include British Petroleum. This would be on top of the 350 other suits, representing multiple parties already filed. No word on how many of these people are of the 400,000 that Feinberg and the GCCF have not paid yet, or plan not to pay, but Stephen Herman, co-lead attorney for the plaintiffs said, “I think it certainly validates the litigation effort. I also think that it confirms the sentiment out there that Feinberg and the GCCF haven’t really done a great job of giving people what they thought they were entitled to.”
Not to be outdone, British Petroleum filed a suit of their own, going after Cameron International, the company that made the blowout preventer that wouldn’t close. BP would like a court to rule against the company, declaring the device caused or contributed to the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon. Such a ruling would help BP fight against a designation of being “grossly negligent” which if so designated would dramatically raise the amount of fines British Petroleum will have to pay under the Oil Pollution Act.
Perhaps Feinberg knows a judge, to help out his boss, maybe call in some favors perhaps? It’s been a while since he got a raise, and remember the reason the GCCF keeps screwing people? Right, it’s because they’re overworked…not because the GCCF is trying to coerce people into claims attached to a clause where they sign away their rights to sue BP, and not because Feinberg is trying to save BP money, and certainly not because Feinberg is just trying to keep people out of court…cause, that worked out real well…(see above).
Okay…well, at least…all the oil is gone. And that’s important because according to Feinberg’s methodology, all that oil has to be outta there by 2013. If not, if the Gulf isn’t back to normal by then, the entire pay-scale he is using to determine damages for claimants will be off, and not in the claimants favor…so, hey…at least BP and the Coast Guard, they got that one right…oh, what?
“Mike Robichaux is a local doctor who has seen up to 60 patients in recent weeks with a mysterious sickness that some attribute to BP’s oil spill. Dr. Robichaux has been making house calls because many of the “stoic” workers don’t want others to know that they are sick. Yet, Dr. Robichaux tells the AFP, “Ninety percent of them are getting worse… Nobody has a clue as to what it is.”
Reuters reports that the U.S. National Institutes of Health has launched a ten-year study on the health of 55,000 oil spill clean-up workers and volunteers. Perhaps it will take ten years to get an answer for Dr. Robichaux.
Not everyone blames the oil spill for the health problems plaguing Gulf cleanup workers. Namely, BP does not blame the BP oil spill for the health problems plaguing Gulf cleanup workers. In a BP comment to the AFP, the company wrote, “Illness and injury reports were tracked and documented during the response, and the medical data indicate they did not differ appreciably from what would be expected among a workforce of this size under normal circumstances.”
As for compensating sick workers, this would fall under state law and “must be supported by acceptable medical evidence.” Are the 415 Louisianans suffering from respiratory tract infections, nausea, and headaches evidence enough?”
Oh, and as mentioned before…it ain’t just the physical body having problems…a study funded by the National Science Foundation has found that mental health difficulties are likely to linger on the Gulf Coast for the following decade. According to the study, two factors that could cause stresses to persist are delays in compensation for spill damages by the claims process, and possible slow recovery of fishing resources and the fishing industry.
Feinberg, Dudley…your ears burning?
Okay…my bad on all this everybody…I promise to stop watching so much hockey. It really would appear this thing is far from over…that few are doing well in the Gulf at all
In fact…it would appear the only people really doing well these days are British Petroleum…once again paying stock dividends and issuing bonuses to the elite within its company, and Ken Feinberg,who’s sitting on a helluva nice raise from his British Petroleum puppet masters. Yeah, Ken may be taking a lot of criticism these days, but from everything I read, it doesn’t appear to be affecting his psyche at all, in fact he refers to himself as “Bloodied, but unbowed.” And that’s a good thing too, because whereas some of you lightweights out there might want your guy in charge of helping hundreds of thousands of people recover from this catastraphuk to brag about such things as fairness, compassion, generosity and empathy….I like my arbitrator of a compensation fund to talk like he’s trying out for the WWE, you know, to be a bad-ass who don’t take no crap from some fishing type guys and business people who’ve never been to New York.
Nope…not going well at all:
Cleanup workers are getting sick, depression is running rampant and suicides are up across the Gulf Coast. There’s still oil out there while BP continues to scale back cleanup. BP is reneging on financial promises to help with the oyster beds while helping their stockbrokers and executives to more money. The health of the Gulf continues to be debated. Dolphins are dying. Fish have sores. There are dead zones on the Gulf seafloor. Allegations exist that BP is trying to taint the science by influencing the research. A year after the Deepwater Horizon blew up, no laws have been passed by Congress to help ensure it doesn’t happen again while experts maintain it very well could happen again. The NOAA, EPA and FDA all claim the seafood from the Gulf is safe to eat, and they finally opened the last fishing area but the country isn’t buying it: what the government says, or the seafood – which leaves the industry far from recovered. Too many people are waiting for Feinberg to do his fucking job…homes are being lost, jobs haven’t come back and businesses continue to go bankrupt.
And the President?
Well, he said some words and stuff, but ah…who cares, or believes that guy anymore…
“Lenny Stamos, owner of Beach Cyclists in St. Pete Beach, said he sent in five years of sales tax returns to document his $34,000 loss for last summer. The agency turned down his emergency claim for insufficient documentation, he said. He’s represented by a lawyer.
“My wife and I borrowed $30,000 on our credit cards to keep the business going,” Stamos said.
A claims agent told him he didn’t see any emergency if they had money to borrow, he said.”
And at a news conference on Monday, Ken Feinberg bristled as to why his office has approved $3.8 billion dollars from the $20 billion dollar fund while rejecting thousands of claims…
Keep bristling, Ken…
At least until you answer some basic questions, such as – when will you finally open the books so people can find out what is going on with the GCCF…or, why is it when reporter after reporter continues to find people the GCCF has done wrong, you shrug it away, saying:
The GCCF isn’t perfect…
Yes, we’ve made mistakes…
We’re handling a lot of claims…
Hey Ken, we know this already, and these answers aren’t sufficient.
If you can’t figure out why these mistakes are being made, why people are being left behind…open the books and give somebody else a try…because your lack of payments are hurting people, hurting them badly. As long as there is a dollar left in that escrow account, the money should keep going out – one person losing a business, losing a house, or one family who’s had to break things up for awhile, is simply one too many.
It certainly doesn’t make things right, no…not at all.
“Kenneth Feinberg couldn’t have been clearer: In December, the oil spill claims czar told claimants who had already received emergency payments from him that they could sign away their right to sue, collect one more check within 14 days and be done with the whole process, with “no further review.”
But the truth is that some who sought the so-called quick payment — $5,000 for individuals and $25,000 for businesses — are definitely facing “further review.” In fact, some are now under investigation for fraud, and not all deservedly so.
The Gulf Coast Claims Facility’s website clearly states quick payments will be made within 14 days with no further review, so the apparent contradiction is confounding for some claimants, especially given the program’s admitted lack of transparency. On the other hand, critics have said that offering a quick payment with no further review almost invites fraud.
Julie Queen of New Orleans, a housekeeping supervisor at Marriott’s Residence Inn downtown who also works as a banquet hostess, has been cleared to get her quick payment for damages resulting from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but not before she was kept in the dark for weeks for an investigation that contradicted the GCCF’s “no further review” protocol and ultimately proved unnecessary.”
As I wrote a few days ago, a new phenomenon is occurring on the Gulf Coast. Some claimants who have applied for the quick pay from the GCCF, an application the GCCF stated would be automatic for people who had received an EAP and would require no further review, have suddenly found their EAP’s under investigation for fraud. Guidepost Solutions, the investigative arm of Ken Feinberg’s GCCF, have been making contact and making demands of claimants who have also received a letter from the GCCF that goes something like this:
The GCCF has received your Quick Payment Final Claim Form and Release. After investigating certain aspects of the documents and information that you previously provided to us relating to your Emergency Advance Payment claim, we have determined that there is insufficient reliable evidence to support your Quick Payment claim and that further investigation is required…
And then the waiting game for people continues on, and on, and on…they are not told how long this investigation will take place and for most, this letter came after they had already been waiting well past the fourteen day time-frame the GCCF promised for completion of quick payments.
Well, the media is listening and they want to hear what you have to say…they want your story and they want the facts of your situation.
Why tell it?
When so many people are scared to talk about their dealings with the GCCF, why stick your neck out?
Short answer: Because if there are shady dealings going on with the GCCF, people need to know about it and exposing said shady dealings is an avenue to get justice not only for you, but for those who also find themselves in your situation.
Long answer: When BP spilled all the oil, and when Obama appointed Ken Feinberg to handle the claims something happened in the Gulf Coast beyond devastation. Suddenly, hundreds of thousands of people had something in common and a new community was formed with new bonds. Strangers began to get to know one another and learn each other’s stories; people began to reach out to one another for a common cause: reparation and holding the people responsible for this disaster accountable. When Ken Feinberg failed at his task again and again, and he gave statements regarding this failure which amounted to little more than more promises and an apologetic shrug, he continued this creation of community which met each other at his meetings, at his claims offices and unfortunately, at the food bank and the payday loan centers. Ensuring people are treated equitably and fairly is up to you, your new community, Judge Barbier and the press…
So, they want to hear what you have to say about Guidepost Solutions:
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.