On Wednesday, Ken Feinberg attended a meeting in Jefferson Parish where local fishermen, oystermen, shrimpers and crabbers weren’t as celebratory of his efforts with the GCCF as the law students were when he recently spoke in Ireland.
Harlon Pearce, owner of LA Fish & Seafood asked, “How do we go out and market this product, when we’re worried about having a product to market?”
This is becoming quite the valid question.
For the past couple of weeks, reports have been coming in to shore fast and furious about the lack of shrimp catch, “I am talking to the guys, I am talking to the docks, and they are telling me that they are 80 percent off,” said Clint Guidry, president of the Louisiana Shrimp Association, “We should have had a good year this year.” Carol Terrebonne, who runs the Seafood Shed, a seafood wholesaler in Golden Meadow, agreed, “Usually at this time of the year, we are loading trailer loads,” Terrebonne said, “It’s just not happening.”
Dean Blanchard, a third generation shrimper who owns a processing plant in Grand Isle is being forced to close because far fewer shrimp are coming into the plant this season and some of the shrimp are showing signs of contamination. Blanchard says he is seeing first hand how the oil and dispersants are causing the wildlife and people to get sick, “We’re seeing dead porpoises, we’re seeing shrimp with no eyes that’s still alive, we’re seeing fish with tumors the size of golf balls in them, we’re seeing fish with oil all over the gills…it’s hard for me to think that everything is going to be alright.”
And back in the meeting at Jefferson Parish, Ken Feinberg stated the obvious, saying that the problems on the Gulf Coast go deeper than issues with his claims process, “There are fishermen in there complaining that though they’ve heard from the GCCF, they don’t like the news they’ve heard — about deficiencies, delays, denials — and that’s what we have to deal with.”
Yes, you do…because though the problems go deeper, the environmental concerns and your claims process are linked.
The GCCF was intended to make things whole for the people of the Gulf Coast, including the fishermen. If they can’t bring product to market, the claims process must address this and fill in the financial gaps until they are again able to do so. That was the whole point of the escrow account, to financially resolve damages caused by this oil spill…well, those damages are ongoing.
Some ideas to come out of this meeting that could help are:
1) There is a proposed separation of claims coming out of the so-called oil spill “Ground Zero” in Louisiana, mainly for those involved in fisheries in Lafitte, Grand Isle and Venice.
2) The setting up of a “Claims Day” in Jefferson Parish, where payment complaints could be handled.
3) A potential change in how the claims are processed and calculated.
And number three would seem to be the most important. If the estimates and calculations for the GCCF claims process are indeed wrong as the ongoing environmental problems would indicate, then those calculations need to be changed.
Also, the interim claims process need to be expanded. Claimants, especially those who make a living from the environment, from the seafood industry who previously accepted final and quick payments and now want to re-apply should be allowed to do so, given amnesty, given another chance as the science keeps rolling in. To say tough luck, shouldn’t have signed away your rights and taken those offers, who does this serve? British Petroleum, yes, but certainly not justice. In addition, the GCCF needs to stop pressuring people into taking final claims, and that goes straight to the top, to Feinberg who has publicly stated that at some point, people need to move on.
If the fishermen have nothing to catch, how are they supposed to do that?
The worst part of all this?
For some it might already be too late, “I don’t even need [Feinberg] to pay me,” Blanchard said of his now closed processing business, “If he could just pay the fishermen, so they quit asking for credit, I would consider staying open.”
Feinberg needs to be reminded this isn’t about British Petroleum, nor is it about what’s easiest and best for the GCCF, it is about the people of the Gulf Coast and if they are still losing money due to environmental damages, if businesses are still closing down as a result of this oil spill, then the GCCF is not doing their job, which means Ken needs to go back to the drawing board and make right these problems and the people once and for all.
A month ago, I wrote about the Advocates for Environmental Human Rights Report that clearly showed how Feinberg and the GCCF have made it very difficult, if not impossible for Gulf Coast claimants to receive compensation for health claims, especially when compared to previous claims funds he’s administered. When it came to both the 9-11 fund and Agent Orange compensation, all a claimant needed to show was proximity to the event and a medical diagnosis to receive compensation for health claims, but when it comes to the oil spill, proximity and diagnosis is not nearly enough. In the Gulf, a claimant must also show medical proof of causation, and that changes everything, especially when one considers:
“When asked if claimants could medically prove their illness as caused by the oil disaster, Linda Birnbaum, Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), answered emphatically, “No, they can not.” Birnbaum further stressed that to ask residents to provide causality between BP’s oil and chemical dispersants and their illnesses is simply not possible, and emphasized it is not because they are not sick, but because the medical and scientific communities simply do not know enough about the effects of chemical dispersants and crude oil on human health to prove such a claim.”
Regardless, Ken has stated he will be hiring “medical experts” to analyze these claims for validity. Okay, but if medical causality of the claims cannot be proven by known medical science as valid, what validity exactly is he checking on?
The validity of a health claims whitewash?
The validity of the GCCF?
No, I know…
Feinberg’s checking on the same validity he had those environmental experts checking when they said the Gulf environment would be okay by 2013. He’s checking on the validity of the unknown. But that seems just another folly, a cover, a way to perhaps throw up his hands in the future exclaiming how he did all he could, when in fact what needs to be checked here is not the validity of an individual claim’s medical causality, but the validity of Feinberg’s demands for proof.
Rather than hiring medical experts, perhaps he should instead hire more Public Relations people to check on the validity of Gulf Coast skepticism.
In any case, I hear the distinct sound of claimants slipping through the GCCF’s cracks, yet again, and this time with thousands of dollars in medical bills…
Ken Feinberg has been getting a lot of flack from people in the Gulf Coast regarding his claims process. The accusations are flying a mile a minute, some of them coming from various members of Congress, the Justice Department and the Attorneys General of Alabama and Mississippi. Apparently having had enough of this, Feinberg wrote an editorial in last Sunday’s Press Register, where he took to task his critics and specifically the various Alabama politicians, and their claims regarding his handling of the claims process…
“Both public officials have every right to their opinions but no right to distort the facts…”
Whereupon Ken begins to do precisely that.
Shall we review?
He reports the GCCF has distributed some $4 billion dollars to 200,000 individuals and businesses in the Gulf region.
He doesn’t report $16 billion dollars is remaining in the fund, nor that he has estimated he will be giving half of it back to British Petroleum when this is all said and done. He doesn’t mention getting to this point has taken over eight months…while needy families and business wait, struggling, nor does he mention that a District Court Judge has ruled he is not independent of British Petroleum, but is more of a “hybrid” entity, thus making all of his claims handling suspect…or, would you be inclined, after a doctor hits you with his car, to have that same doctor do your medical evaluation and determine if you were healthy or needed compensation and if so, how much you should get?
He reports the GCCF has not been “tight-fisted” when it comes to paying claims and cites as proof the fact that 660 people have appealed his offers to the Coast Guard who has agreed with the GCCF’s decision every time.
He doesn’t report that he wrote the rules, or methodology to determine payment of these claims, which bases the payment scheme on the Gulf being back to normal by 2013, despite the fact that Prince William Sound still isn’t back to normal as a result of the much smaller Exxon Valdez spill, even 20 years later. He doesn’t report that of the 3000 comments received during the public comment period regarding this methodology, about ten thought the methodology was good, made sense, was fair…and who knows how many of those ten were written by executives of British Petroleum. He also doesn’t report that in those appeals to the Coast Guard, they are all for claim offers under $250,000 dollars, which means the people doing the appealing maybe aren’t the most wealthy of the people involved in this process who again, are fighting against the stacked deck that is the GCCF methodology.
He continues to report the many individuals who have taken quick payments did not do so under coercion, but because they have decided the already received an adequate EAP payment or cannot document anymore damage from the spill, citing as proof there has been no groundswell of complaint from the people who have taken said payments heard by the GCCF.
He doesn’t report that, again, these people have been waiting since last August when he took over and really needed the money. Now agreed, some people go for the quick pay because they have no way to document more damage, but I would argue more people have taken the quick pay out of financial desperation, trying to pay rent one more month or clear some bills because the GCCF process is taking so damned long…intentionally? Depends on who you ask. As far as a groundswell of complaint about the quick payments…apparently Feinberg never read the public comments on his methodology because the complaints are there. He must also never read the Times Picayune, the Press Register, the New York Times or any of the comments sections on ProPublica, or this and many other blogs.
Ken, if you go out of your way to ignore the groundswell and it would appear you have, you ain’t gonna find it…
And Ken also reports on the charge of GCCF delays in making payments by saying his critics fail to mention that more than 80 percent of the 283,000 claims filed for final, interim and quick payments — including 35,753 from Alabama — have already been processed.
Processed, yes, but beyond the quick payments…
Not many at all.
Ken reports the $20 billion fund would be exhausted in a week if the GCCF paid claimants with no documentation solely because the claimant asked the GCCF: “Trust me.”
What Ken doesn’t report is due to the lack of transparency regarding these claims, “Trust me,” is precisely what Ken is asking the Gulf Coast to do, while he is being paid by British Petroleum.
Finally, Ken decides to kiss a little ass: “I join Congressman Bonner in wholeheartedly praising “Alabama’s sugar-white sandy beaches” and “world-famous seafood.”
Whereupon he decides to quickly concede the standard: “…the GCCF must be more transparent and consistent in rendering its decisions. The GCCF has been far from perfect — the inevitable result of receiving almost 1 million claims from all 50 states in less than one year of operation!”
What Ken doesn’t report while kissing a little ass is that he has been promising transparency for months to every elected official he can find, but doing very little about it. He has also promised to be more consistent for months, and isn’t, and like always, he stresses how big this job has been, huge, enormous…I mean holy shit! Who could have ever foreseen how absolutely gigantic this would be?
Which is a nice, attempted distraction from a more accurate representation:
Hey, I kind of screwed up a lot of people on this one because I didn’t accurately gauge the size of the project I decided to undertake, and rather than admit my lack of foresight, preparedness, and the fallacy of all those promises I made early on to the people of the Gulf Coast, you remember…about how fast and generous I was going to be, well I’ve just decided to keep throwing claim statistics at you while I duck out the side door, just in time for British Petroleum to give me a raise.
113,763 total quick pay claims filed. 109,955 claims paid. Percentage of claim paid: 96%
Total Interim Payments:
75,471 total interim claims filed. 9,112 interim claims paid. Percentage of claims paid: 12%
Total Final Claims:
105,709 total final claims filed. 21,261 final claims paid or indicated they would accept. Percentage of claims paid: 20%
So what can a reasonable person deduce from these numbers?
1. Of all the claims filed, the percentage of interim claims paid is lowest. Seeing as how the interim claims are the only claims one can accept while retaining the right to sue British Petroleum, Feinberg’s employer, this can lead a reasonable person to believe that perhaps these claims are being stalled. After all it is in British Petroleum’s interest to have those rights waived, and to get claimants into one of the categories where they don;t have to continue to pay out money.
2. Of all the claims filed, the percentage of quick pay claims paid is far, far higher than the other two types. This could certainly be because they are the easiest claims to audit, because there is no further documentation needed (although in the fine print could be a call from Guidepost Solutions, the investigative arm of the GCCF, checking you out for fraud despite the fact these claims were supposed to be paid out with no questions asked for people who previously received EAP’s). Nonetheless, at $5,000 dollars for individuals and $25,000 dollars for businesses, these claims are also the cheapest to resolve, and with a signature on a waiver, releasing your right to sue British Petroleum, resolving these claims is by far in the best interest of British Petroleum and therefore, the GCCF and Ken Feinberg.
3. When it comes to the final claims, which also requires one to waive the right to sue British Petroleum, the GCCF website states that of the 105,709 final claims filed, the GCCF has reviewed 84,767 of them, already paid 17,000 and have made offers on an additional 15,000, of which 4,000 have indicated they would accept. If only 21.000 have accepted a final payment out of over a hundred thousand claims filed, these are also moving extraordinarily slow and if they are so generous, what is the hold up for the 11,000 claimants who have received final offers and not as yet accepted?
4. It is this writer’s opinion that claimants are being stalled into filing quick payments as they are the only ones being paid with any sense of urgency. As people grow increasingly desperate, financially in the Gulf, the quick payment becomes increasingly attractive, like buying the rent-a-wreck because its your only way to work, and your running late. In the end, these payments have a far higher chance of leaving a claimant financially screwed.
Lastly, let’s take a look at the statistics from the GCCF website regarding the amounts of the claims paid out.
Everybody knows the quick payment, which is $5,000 dollars for individuals and $25,000 dollars for businesses. The interim payments made average out to $6700 dollars for an individual and $28,000 for businesses. The final payments accepted average out to $9200 dollars for individuals and $55,000 for businesses.
Keeping in mind that for the vast majority of these claims, this is meant to cover all damages from the spill in their entirety.
A year after the oil spilled, some industries are beginning their recovery, yet there is a deep skepticism on the safety of the seafood across the country and many, many people remain out of work or have been forced to leave the Gulf Coast to look for work elsewhere…all the while there are increasing sicknesses occurring that many are blaming on the toxicity of the oil and dispersants. The health of the Gulf is still very much in doubt, as is the sustainability of the sea life living there.
So, in a nutshell, what Feinberg calls generous…I call getting screwed. It would appear to me the only person British Petroleum is being generous to in the Gulf Coast is Ken Feinberg.
Nonetheless, Feinberg writes:
At the end of the day, neither Jo Bonner, Luther Strange nor Kenneth Feinberg will determine the ultimate “legacy” of the GCCF. That is a decision that will be made by the citizens of Alabama and those residing throughout the Gulf.
Ken can write whatever he likes in his editorial, glossing over certain facts and figures available on his website, but It would appear to me BP and Ken Feinberg are doing their best to write this legacy.
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…
Okay, so maybe they didn’t say that directly, but what else are we to assume if these two agencies, designed to protect and inform the American electorate tells us the water and air in the Gulf of Mexico are safe despite independent testing by Oregon State University that shows this dramatic elevation in PAH’s?
And yes, exposure to some of these Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons have definitive toxic effects within humans and animals…toxic effects like cancer, and these PAH’s can move into the food chain.
From the article in HuffingtonPost:
What’s worse is that the sampling device was specifically designed to measure the fraction of PAHs in the environment that could make their way through a biological membrane.
“This is a measure of what would enter into an organism,” said Kim Anderson, an OSU professor of environmental and molecular toxicology.
“There was a huge increase of PAHs that are bio-available to the organisms — and that means they can essentially be uptaken by organisms throughout the food chain.”
Also in the article, Anderson said that going by other people’s findings, it is her suspicion that the use of dispersants has made it easier for the toxins to enter the food chain, the theory being that as the dispersants break the oil into smaller and smaller particles, these particles are more easily absorbed by sea life.
These readings were taken in June by OSU, and they are currently analyzing August samples for changes. The problem is, even if the readings come back lower, how much of these toxins have already entered the food supply and the people of the Gulf Coast, especially as we read reports and testimony of people already sick and doctors being harassed when they identify these sicknesses as being caused by the poisons unleashed by both the oil spill and the response?
So yes, all of this begs a question:
If more and more scientists, as they do more and more testing and analysis, find more and more wrong with the information released by the Obama Administration, the EPA, the NOAA and British Petroleum, is it simply this company and these government agencies belief that we, as consumers will be more and more ignorant and continue to accept their conclusions and go about our lives, more and more oblivious and poisoned?
You might wonder how crabs in the Gulf have received a clean bill of health from the US Wildlife and Fisheries, especially after the 4.1 million barrels, the 2 million gallons of dispersants, the two to five-inch thick layer of oil on the sea floor, all these fish kills going on in Plaquemines Parish, the people getting sick, the dead whales, the oil yet again hitting sixteen miles of marsh on the Louisiana Coast, possible groundwater contamination…etc…
I remember one night many years ago, walking down Decatur Street in the Quarter as the darkness was coming on, challenging the streetlamps to do their best. It was a beautiful February evening, colder but not freezing and as I glanced in the river’s direction I smiled at the sight of a rolling fog bank, moving slow, silent and concealing. Stopping at the corner of the square, I watched it drift across Decatur, enveloping me, the statue of Andrew Jackson and I kept watching until it swallowed St. Louis Cathedral.
It was a kind of spooky, but in a pleasant way.
The fog in the Gulf of Mexico is less so.
During the hearings yesterday in Houston, set up to investigate the cause of the Deepwater Horizon explosion, it was more of the same. British Petroleum pointed the blame at Transocean. Transocean pointed the blame at British Petroleum, and nobody learned nothing, nobody knew nothing, never.
The investigator, US Coast Guard Captain Hung Nguyen expressed his frustration with all involved, “I just don’t see how everything gets coordinated,” Nguyen said. “International regulations identify one person in charge that is accountable for and responsible for the safe operation of the vessel…especially when we go into an emergency phase, it might be difficult to have an effective response.”
Harry Thierens, a London-based BP Vice President for drilling operations was on the stand and Nguyen asked him a series of questions: Is he aware that a lot of questions are being asked about who was in charge? Can you articulate any lessons learned from previous deadly oil refining and drilling disasters? Has BP done any exercises since April 20th to see how it would respond to a future blowout?
Thierens responded, “No,” “No,” and “I don’t know.” He did recall more fluidly that it is Transocean who was in charge of maintaining and configuring the equipment on the blowout preventer which would imply the blowout preventer’s failure to clamp down and seal the well was not the fault of British Petroleum.
Meanwhile, a Halliburton technical adviser Jesse Gagliano was blaming British Petroleum, testifying he told BP officials that their well design would raise the risk for gas to reach the surface, which is ultimately what happened and lead to the explosion. BP’s lawyer challenged Gagliano, questioning why he would sign off on a plan he was so concerned about to which Gagliano responded that his signing off on the plan wasn’t meant as an endorsement.
After more exchanges of this sort with several others associated with the doomed rig, Nguyen finally said, “Somebody’s got to be in charge here, I just don’t have a clear picture in my mind of who it is here.”
Me neither, then, or now…and here we are in the Gulf Coast:
The Gulf’s waters are forever fucked. No they’re not. The seafood is unsafe except it isn’t. The oil plumes are there and they are huge except that a brand new microbe is eating them, unless the science is faulty and the plumes moved with the current. Corexit is a poison they have stopped using except it’s no more harmful than dish soap and at night, mercenaries are pouring it over the oil that isn’t there, except that the oil is. The top kill worked except it didn’t. The static kill worked, kind of. The relief wells may not be necessary except they are. The marshes are being destroyed except for where they are recovering and the government says the Gulf of Mexico is recovering well, but there is still much more to do while BP pulls back on the cleanup because the oil slicks have all but disappeared from the water’s surface; it’s now under the sand of the beaches and breaker islands, except its not there either. Bobby Jindal builds sand berms to hold back oil that isn’t contaminating seafood that isn’t dying off in mass fish kills that may or may not be caused by the spill’s effect on oxygen levels in the water, oxygen levels that might be depleted, or not. British Petroleum denies the leaks in the sea floor, calling it natural seepage from leaks they say aren’t there or if they are, certainly were not caused by anything they might or might not have done and didn’t you know, a giant methane bubble is preparing to erupt from below the sea floor that will kill us all? A study says dispersants are speeding up the bio-accumulation of oil in wildlife that according to the NOAA isn’t happening and the government oil spill numbers that have been approved by independent scientists were never actually approved by independent scientists. The EPA says the water and atmosphere are safe except for the whistleblower from the EPA who says the water and air aren’t safe, but everything is okay now because Tony Hayward is no longer CEO of British Petroleum. Transocean says they can’t complete their own internal investigations because BP won’t turn over evidence they need and British Petroleum denies this, saying they have been in in full compliance with the government’s investigations where some of their employees take the fifth amendment and in the middle of the night, whales are being secreted to Mexico so nobody can watch them die. The EPA tells BP to stop using Corexist and find alternatives while the Coast Guard say they approved it. Cleanup workers are getting sick from exposure to the oil because British Petroleum didn’t give them the respirators that British Petroleum gave them to wear so they wouldn’t get sick from the oil. The government has a methodology to explain their oil spill numbers that you can’t see: the methodology or the oil that is still washing up on the beaches. British Petroleum’s cost cutting might have caused the Deepwater Horizon to explode, if it weren’t for Transocean rigging the blowout preventer wrong and Halliburton incorrectly pouring the cement and apparently somebody was in charge of the rig but since this could get expensive, nobody is sure who is in charge and nobody knows anything about nothing, never.
And nobody will give their complete information to anybody else.
This is somewhat of a farce, and seems to work in the favor of those who have the money and are trying their best to keep it, for as long as possible, except they’re not trying to keep their money, instead being responsible for what they might or might not have done…just maybe, at some time.
Oh for fuck’s sakes.
Perhaps, a return to basics.
When it comes to the Deepwater Horizon and the aftermath across the Gulf of Mexico…
1. 11 men died in the explosion.
2. Someone at BP, Halliburton or Transocean is lying and maybe all three.
3. The water in the Gulf of Mexico ain’t as clean as it used to be.
4. People are suffering.
And back in New Orleans, that night in the fog after watching it swallow the old church, I got moving again, heading to the Hideout, a now defunct bar enjoyed for cheap drinks, dark lighting and the inevitable fight to watch. That night, I had the good fortune to know I would be meeting friends, I would be coming out of the Mississippi’s blanket to relax, talking and laughing with a few trusted people.
In the Gulf’s fog, however…there are few friends amongst both those responsible and the government entities trying to reassure that eventually, everyone will be okay.
Instead, it would seem they are the guys in the shadows up closer to Esplanade, waiting for you to get a little too drunk and a little too unaware, waiting for the NOPD to be nowhere in sight.
“Tomorrow morning, the Gulf Coast Claims Facility is up and running,” said Ken Feinberg, appointed by Barack Obama to administer the $20 billion dollar escrow fund, “BP is out of the claims-processing business beginning tomorrow.”
In many respects this is good news. Kenneth Feinberg has promised to get reparations money into the hands of residents within 48 hours and to business owners within a week. This will enable many families to pay rent and mortgages and otherwise financially begin the struggle back from the infliction of BP’s Catastraphuk, and for many businesses, it will be the difference between staying open and closing down. The way this picture has been presented, Feinberg is a neutral arbitrator, beholden to no one so everybody wins. Everyone, including British Petroleum, and it turns out the person who rigged this game is none other than Kenneth Feinberg.
First, the easy part: any resident who can show financial impact from the spill are due emergency payouts with no strings attached, and this will continue until November 23rd. After this date, however, the rules of the game will change dramatically. When Gulf Coast residents apply for a final damages payment, an amount to be determined by Feinberg and his team they will be forced to make a choice. If they accept the payment they waive their right to sue BP at a later date for any successive damages, but if they turn the payment down, they may have to wait years, decades even for any compensation as their claim make its way through the legal system. Feinberg has promised to be more generous than any court. He has stated that if he doesn’t find you eligible for a final payment no court will, but eligibility for payment is not the point. The point is the amount of time it would take to go through the courts versus the difficulty inherent in Gulf Coast residents trying to determine what amount is an acceptable final payment for what they’ve lost and might still lose.
And having to make this determination, having to decide how much is fair and having to decide now, to give up your right for future compensation?
This was Feinberg’s idea.
From the AP:
The new administrator for claims by Gulf oil spill victims says it was his idea, not BP’s, to require that anyone who receives a final settlement from the $20 billion compensation fund give up the right to sue the oil giant.
Now as it has always been, this choice is a game of craps. What was unknown is it was Feinberg, not BP who loaded the dice. Gulf Coast Residents are being asked to make a determination on how long this spill will impact their lives, when the only thing we know for sure is nobody knows how, or how long this spill will do so. Feinberg’s rules appear to assume the Gulf’s recovery is on a constantly improving trajectory, when the evidence coming out of the Gulf shows this trajectory to be anything but constantly improving.
1. When British Petroleum chose to use dispersants to fight this oil spill, they drove the oil under the surface where the havoc it is wreaking on the environment is not completely understood, and won’t be understood for many years to come, long after Feinberg’s final payments are issued.
2. The long-term health effects of the dispersants and the crude oil on Gulf Cost residents remain unknown. Significant medical studies were never done on cleanup workers after the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska. Scientists instead have had to pull together a collection of studies on possible long-term health effects from toxic chemicals found in crude oil and the health effects of these studies include severe DNA degradation which can lead to cancer, birth defects and irreversible neurological damage. No such effects will be known until after final payments are received.
3. Nobody knows what might happen the first time a hurricane makes landfall on the Gulf Coast after churning through the Gulf of Mexico’s waters, but the potential exists for storm surges carrying crude and dispersants inland where it could do further damage.
4. Nobody knows the full financial impact if tainted seafood makes it to market. Evidence is being found of dispersants and oil entering the food chain and lately it has been revealed that the FDA weren’t even testing seafood for toxic heavy metals known to be in crude oil, despite the catch coming from known oiled areas.
5. The Macondo Well has yet to even be permanently sealed. What if something has gone wrong, or something does go wrong with the relief wells or sea floor as many believe? Oil could or will continue to leak into the gulf from the ruptured well for many years to come, many years, more damage…again, after final payments are issued.
None of these situations are static, yet Gulf Coast residents will soon be asked to choose if the final payment offered is enough to cover the damages from any one of these potential eventualities, or possibly a combination of several and should any occur, the choices made could save British Petroleum millions more in future lawsuits.
Feinberg has described his claims program as “entirely voluntary,” and though on paper he may be right, when real life steps in it becomes murkier. Programs are only voluntary when people are not feeling severe financial pressure. When people can’t afford the time it will take to exercise their legal right to sue, a program is not voluntary.
Feinberg likes to point out how it took 20 years for people to settle damages after the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska. By the time Alaskans were being compensated, a number of people impacted by that spill were no longer even alive to collect their payments and the speed of compensation in the Gulf Coast is one of Feinberg’s oft-repeated selling points. People are out of work. Businesses are closing. Families are fracturing. People can’t pay their rent, their mortgages their utility bills or put food on the table. Feinberg’s emergency payments will take care of much of these smaller financial burdens, but the largest burdens are left beholden to the final payments: potential medical bills, any sort of job or future security, peace of mind for thousands who would not have had to worry about such things if not for British Petroleum’s Catastraphuk.
And for these final payments, they will be asked to make a choice, an estimate based on facts they don’t have, and to make matters worse, this lack of clarity is compounded by the “facts” they do have, many of which remain suspect. Reports from the EPA, FDA, NOAA all called into question by whistle blowers and independent scientists, and many more newer, potentially more detailed reports are quashed by British Petroleum’s hiring and silencing of so many other university scientists, along with the government’s decision to quickly following suit with the same tactic, all for the stated purpose of legal defense and prosecution.
Well, just try deciding how much your family’s life, livelihood, culture and future is worth while in the middle of a fog of doubt and distrust.
Or better yet try imagining:
Your house has suffered a fire, and while standing on the sidewalk watching it smolder, along comes an arbitrator offering you a settlement amount before the fire damage is inspected, would you accept? How about if you found out upon receipt of payment you would have no legal recourse after any inspection and the person who decided you would have no legal recourse was the arbitrator. How about if the firemen who put out your fire were hired by those who set it, and you suspected they all had been misleading you about the damage ever since the fire started, oh and your kids beside you are coughing from smoke inhalation and they haven’t been to a doctor yet. And you knew that when your neighbor’s house burned down, it took them twenty years to get their settlement? Let’s not forget your livelihood was an in-home business, also burned and didn’t ya know that winter is on the way…would you then feel the choice you had to make is a fair choice, or even that you had a choice?
If so, then roll the dice and welcome to the Gulf Coast.
Welcome to Feinberg’s bigger and better deal.
Your neutral arbitrator of of the $20 billion dollar compensation fund is the one, not BP, who decided to apply the pressure of a “no sue” clause.
Wow, yesterday was a bad day for the official story, you know…that storyline that says the Gulf of Mexico is rapidly recovering, 75% of the oil is gone, the seafood is safe and how it is now time for everyone to live happily ever after with the reopened fishing areas? Well, to believe the American Medical Association, the University of Georgia and some fisherman taking water samples in Mississippi, the facts are remarkably different. The AMA commented on cleanup workers who appear to be suffering from exposure, listed the medical problems that can be caused by said exposure to oil and dispersants while making some recommendations for Gulf Coast residents. Then the University of Georgia completed a study which found the facts from the National Incident Command study are wrong and being widely misinterpreted, and those fisherman in Mississippi? They took independent water samples and discovered evidence of oil and dispersants contaminating their oyster beds and shrimping grounds, the same grounds the state of Mississippi recently reopened.
The American Medical Association
In their online journal the AMA commented on the symptoms of apparent oil and dispersant exposure in more than 300 workers in Louisiana, 75% of which were cleanup workers…these symptoms were headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, cough, respiratory distress and chest pain, all common when people are exposed to hydrocarbons or hydrogen sulfide, prevalent in crude oil and its fumes.
As further example to medical doctors in the region of what to watch out for, the report also identified previous health problems of cleanup workers and residents from other oil spills:
A survey of the health status of workers 14 years after the Exxon Valdez cleanup found a greater prevalence of symptoms of chronic airway disease among workers with high oil exposures, as well as self reports of neurological impairments and multiple chemical sensitivity…one study of 6780 fisherman, which included 4271 oil spill cleanup workers, found a higher prevalence of lower respiratory tract symptoms 2 years after the oil spill cleanup activities. The risk of lower respiratory tract symptoms increased with the intensity of exposure…a study of 858 individuals involved in the cleanup of the Prestige oil spill in Spain in 2002 investigated acute genetic toxicity in volunteers and workers. Increased DNA damage, as assessed by the Comet assay, was found in volunteers, especially in those working on the beaches.
The AMA report concluded with some recommendations for community residents, suggesting that people should not fish in areas where there is evidence of oil and avoid direct skin contact with contaminated water, oil or tar balls. If residents notice a strong odor of oil or chemicals and are concerned about hazardous effects, they should seek refuge in air conditioned homes.
All in all, according to the official narrative, the AMA report should be of little concern. Just wear safety equipment and stay away from direct exposure, and with the National Incident Command reporting two weeks ago how 75% of the oil is gone, staying away from direct contact should be fairly simple. The President went swimming in the Gulf after all, showing everyone just how safe the water actually is, that is…unless Carol Browner and the NIH report are wrong.
Georgia Sea Grant Study: University of Georgia
The findings of the (NIH) report are being widely reported in the news media as suggesting that 75% of the oil is “gone” and only 25% remains. However, many independent scientists are interpreting the findings differently, with some suggesting that less than 10% is “gone” and up to 90% remains a threat to the ecosystem…the news media’s tendency to interpret “dispersed” and “dissolved” as “gone” is wrong. Dispersed and dissolved forms can be highly toxic.
There have been no oceanographic surveys measuring the entire breadth of the subsurface oil plume, only cruises targeting specific regions of interest to the scientific community. Thus, we can only estimate how much remains below the surface. However, after accounting for oil that has been skimmed and burned (10% collectively), evaporated (8-12%) and degraded (4-8%), we estimate that the oil remaining at or below the surface is between 70 and 79% or between 2.9 and 3.2 million barrels.
The Georgia report also identifies concerns about air quality, the oil moving into the Atlantic Ocean via the Gulf Stream and recommends a number of studies be done to get an entirely accurate assessment of the true impact of the oil in the Gulf waters. Numerous times in their report they mention the withholding of data that is impeding analysis of the ecosystem; this data being held tight by the Government and British Petroleum.
Fisherman in Mississippi Testing Waters Opened for Fishing
From the article in Truthout:
On Monday, August 9, the Director of the State of Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (DMR), Bill Walker, despite ongoing reports of tar balls, oil and dispersants being found in Mississippi waters, declared, “there should be no new threats” and issued an order for all local coast governments to halt ongoing oil disaster work being funded by BP money that was granted to the state. Mississippi residents and fishermen Truthout spoke with believe Walker’s move was from an order given by Gov. Haley Barbour, who has been heavily criticized over the years for his lobbying on behalf of the Tobacco and Oil industries.
Two days after Walker’s announcement and in response to claims from state and federal officials that Gulf Coast waters are safe and clean, fishermen took their own samples from the waters off of Pass Christian in Mississippi. The samples were taken in water that is now open for shrimping, as well as from waters directly over Mississippi’s oyster bed, that will likely open in September for fishing. Commercial fisherman James “Catfish” Miller, took fishermen Danny Ross Jr. and Mark Stewart, along with scientist Dr. Ed Cake of Gulf Environmental Associates and others out and they found the fishing grounds to be contaminated with oil and dispersants.
Also reported in the article are the testimonies from a number of area fisherman who claim the Coast Guard and British Petroleum continue to spray dispersants in the area to sink the oil, and if true…the waters that have been reopened for fishing are not only experiencing oil sheen but continue to be sprayed with dispersants both by boat and also bombed by planes from the air. The Coast Guard denies this is the case, but these stories of the continued use of dispersants, all done under the cover of night, is a technique still being reported by many throughout the Gulf Coast.
It should also be noted the fishermen quoted in the article by Truthout are complaining of the following symptoms: chronic headaches, nasal problems and metallic tastes in their mouths, and this brings us full circle back to the report by the AMA where similar symptoms were described in people who experienced exposure to crude oil and dispersants.
If the oil is gone as so claimed by the official storyline, this shouldn’t be the case, the point being…the official story is bullshit.
All one need do is ask one simple question in determining the validity of these reports.
Who benefits and who loses?
In the official storyline that all is well, the people who benefit are British Petroleum and the various offices of the government. British Petroleum gains financially. Dispersed oil cannot be counted or seen and this works in their favor financially and from a public relations standpoint. The Federal government also gets good PR, shows progress in the fight against the spill and can hold feel good photo opportunities for the benefit of the press while various agencies get to say that the water, the air and the food is safe. The governors in the various regions, governors such as Haley Barbour can point to clean beaches and water that appears clear. This benefits his potential presidential run, not to mention an influx of tourist dollars that make local businesses happy, which in turn makes him happy. On one hand, it would also seem to be good news for fisherman, reopened fishing grounds return them to work, but on the other hand…if the food they bring to market turns out to be bad, this will impact their reputations and their product and livelihoods for years to come, a fact that is not lost in the growing concerns of many in their line of work.
As far as the AMA and the University of Georgia, what do they gain?
The AMA gain little while the University of Georgia by producing this study open themselves up to attack by everyone who stands to profit from the new narrative. So I would imagine they would have to be quite confident in their facts before releasing them to the general public. And the fisherman…once again they pay the biggest price. They have to discern through the contradictory information and decide what to do; it is their livelihoods at stake, again…just as it has been since the Deepwater Horizon exploded.
Also from the Truthout article, at a meeting after being presented with evidence the oil is still in their fishing grounds:
The fishermen unanimously supported a petition calling for the firing of Dr. Walker, the head of Mississippi’s DMR, who is responsible for opening the fishing grounds.
When we released our pie chart back on August 4th, that prop we used to show everybody watching the networks just how 75% of the oil had been removed from the Gulf, we did so under terms of a certain agreement, one that it disappoints us to find you have not kept. You know, we didn’t ask you to hide forever, but we did discuss how you might take things a bit more “low profile,” at least for awhile, and for about a half a day we were pleased with the arrangement. We felt that all parties were on the same page.
The nice lunch we had, which we paid for I might add, we didn’t even ask you to leave a tip, not that we’re trying to say you’re cheap, far from it, if anything you’re more expensive than any of us could have ever imagined, but at the end of that lunch we felt our arrangement was formalized. We agreed to stop hitting you with so many dispersants, and you agreed to stay out of sight.
It’s like you don’t remember our conversation at all. Picture after picture after picture…meanwhile, we still try to pretend a deal is in place, that your behavior is just an aberration, a last hurrah so to speak. We get everybody on board to talk about how damage in the Gulf is winding down. The oil is gone. We get the damned NOAA to say how they don’t see any oil on the surface, and then you start popping up everywhere.
“The government, both state and federal, is pushing to open all these fishing areas back up and say it is OK, but this is a load of shit,” said Clint Guidry, a Louisiana fisherman from Lafitte, Louisiana, “It’s not OK. They claim 75 percent of the oil is gone or accounted for, but there’s still oil coming in. There is more oil in many of our bays, right now, than there has ever been.”
This is unacceptable.
We’ve been talking amongst ourselves. The consensus is we suspect you think you have us beat, that enough people have found out about the danger of dispersants that we wouldn’t try spraying anymore, but see it from our side. Your actions are making us look defensive and this is something we cannot have. British Petroleum is the only bad guy here, it’s what we said. It’s what we laughed about over hurricanes at that bar on Grand Isle, remember, that little place on the beach?
This is intolerable.
You, are a liar.
You think we won’t resume using disperants but you need to understand, as long as we claim we aren’t using them anymore the press will believe us, at least the important press, because as you will quickly find out if you do not cease and desist, the important press is losing interest in you. The reporters want stories to cover in a climate that isn’t so goddamned hot. Besides, what else can they report about you and your ilk. Look, oil. Look, clean it up. Look, it’s killing birds, marshlands, and getting people sick. It’s getting old and the American public has an even quicker attention span than the media, so dispersants?
We deny it. They’ll believe it. You’ll die, along with what’s left of the ecosystem, yes…but more importantly, we get you…first. The long term affects are anyone’s guess and we’ll just have to worry about that later.
So keep that in mind before you continue on this errant path.
We’ll be watching, and we’ll be doing our damnedest to make sure nobody else is.