Rolling Dice in the Gulf Coast – Here Comes Feinberg and His “Choice”

Go on...roll 'em, what ya got to lose?

“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.

For example:

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.

Read the articles:

Ken Feinberg’s claims agency starts work tomorrow

Ken Feinberg says no-sue clause on oil spill claims was his idea

Have a nice day.

(illustration by the artist: Coop)

Before We Get Too Happy With Ourselves BP, Take A Look At Raccoon Island

Is that Doug Suttles Boat? What a great sight

In one of the largest nesting areas for seabird off the Louisiana Coast, the oil has come ashore. At least 300 brown pelicans and hundreds of terns have been seen with everything from spots of oil to complete coverage…all of it fatal as even spots prevent the birds from regulating their body temperature. These bird are not reflected in the federal count of killed wildlife because they have not been collected, something that must be done to make their doom official. This is beneficial in two ways as it allows the federal government to keep the wildlife death rate low, and it also allows BP executives to sleep better at night, something they desperately need after a full day of fighting oil slicks.

Oil hit Raccoon island on July 10th, but unlike a spill such as the Exxon Valdez where the oil pays only one visit – BP, with its use of dispersants has assured that the initial wave of oil pushed ashore by Hurricane Alex will only be one of many more to come.

So, Mr. Scott Dudley, I am sure that you and all of your BP executive buddies who referred to the halt of oil today as a “great sight” are excited and everything, but take a look around…a real look.

“Great sight” is not a term to use in relation to anything in this mess of your creation. Just ask a fisherman, or a dead pelican…ass.

Read the story…

Oil Hits Louisiana’s Largest Pelican-Nesting Area, On Raccoon Island

Have a nice day now…


BP, EPA tells cleanup workers they are safe, just don’t breathe

Perspiration from the forehead of BP's PR Department, very toxic

British Petroleum released, quietly…oh so quietly, new information today about their results from chemical testing. What? You mean the PR department didn’t try to splash that one all over Google, Facebook, MySpace, Sarah Palin’s forehead and Texas Congressman Joe Barton’s ass?


Turns out that 20% of the Gulf Coast cleanup crews have been sickened by a chemical that sickened cleanup workers involved in Exxon’s Valdez mess. The villain is a chemical called 2-butoxyenthanol a chemical released when BP initially used the dispersant, Corexit 9527. Apparently, Tony Hayward was wrong when he initially suggested sick workers probably just had food poisoning.

Wikipedia says:

“Moderate respiratory exposure to 2-butoxyethanol often results in irritation of mucous membranes of the eyes, nose and throat. Heavy exposure via respiratory, dermal or oral routes can lead to hypotension, metabolic acidosis, hemolysis, pulmonary edema and coma…U.S. Employers are required to inform employees when they are working with this substance...”

That this chemical is still showing up in air quality testing is called “worrisome,” “troubling,” and according to Natural Resources Defense Council Senior Scientist Gina Solomon, “the air quality if anything, seems to be deteriorating.” Considering that 2-butoxyethanol is supposed to biodegrade in a few days and British Petroleum claims they stopped using Corexit 9527 in favor of Corexit 9500 a month ago, it is curious this chemical keeps showing up. Perhaps BP is just covering up the labels on the canisters, slapping 9500 on 9527s like they cover up oily beaches with more sand. This company continues to release selective results from their air quality testing with no penalty and it’s getting old, really freaking old, but who is there to keep them in check? Who can we rely on, who will give us the facts in this, our time of need?

Oh good, it’s the EPA.

Turns out somebody in the EPA went rogue, releasing a report stating the air, especially around Venice and Grand Isle, Louisiana is now a “moderate health risk.” Moderate, right. In case you’d like a reminder of another time the EPA monitored a Catastraphuk of a disaster site and said things were safe, consider this gem:

“Our tests show that it is safe for New Yorkers to go back to work in the financial district”


Their bad.

Also interesting is that though California lists 2-butoxyethanol as a hazardous substance, back in ’94, the EPA removed it from their list of hazardous air pollutants. So what is it, dangerous or not? EPA? BP? Obama? Somebody please give us a straight message so we don’t have to resort to independent scientists. Talk about troublesome, these guys, the ones without a financial stake in this mess, they call this stuff a cancer causing carcinogen that can be absorbed through the skin. That don’t sound too good at all, but nothing really does when so many messages are mixed.

So, for those of you haven’t been following the news of recent: BP comes to the Gulf of Mexico to get a bit of oil, totally fucks up the water, and not to be content with this they fuck up the air while they’re not cleaning up the water. BP is not really cleaning up anything but the savings accounts of everyone in the Gulf Coast States who relied on the Gulf for their source of income…and life. Meanwhile the government says they are in charge but accede to every BP demand. Obama makes a lot of promises, provides great reassurance to the American people and then disappears.

Oh…he sent his wife to visit.


My bad.

How about another quote from round the time of 9-11, this one from Charles Schumer D(ick)-NY, “If the public loses faith that things are safe when the government says so, we’ll have more damage than a pointed statement the week after 9-11 would have.”

You think?

Hey Obama, I think he might have been talking about you!

Read the following articles:

New BP Data Show 20% og Gulf Spill Responders Exposed to Chemical That Sickened Valdez

From the EPA: Moderate Health Concerns With Gulf Air

And as always,

Have a nice day.