In perhaps a poor choice of words, Ken Feinberg said yesterday, “No grocery receipts, no documentation, just an allegation of subsistence loss. Four thousand claims where the claim form is exactly the same, including the misspelling. Outrageous! I can’t pay those claims.”
So what was he talking about?
Apparently Plaquemines Parish Council Chairman, Don M Beshel, frustrated with the slow movement of reparations to the people he represents typed up a form letter and had it distributed about the parish. The letter, on Plaquemines Parish letterhead said simply,
“_________________________ is a resident of District 1 Plaquemines Parish and due to the hardship caused by the oil spill, seafood production costs have increased and have caused undue hardships on local residents in the amount of $______________________ per month.
Turns out 4000 people filled in these blanks and sent them in.
While Mr. Beshel’s frustration was certainly justified and his creativity could be admired, this was probably not the best idea, about as well thought out as Feinberg’s comments.
4000 claims sent in at once are only going to slow down the other claims, not to mention give false hope to people in Plaquemines Parish that by doing such, on parish letterhead, their claim for groceries will be honored. It also could have given the appearance to many this was something that had been worked out with Feinberg. On the other hand, Feinberg could stand to drop any sort of righteous indignation on his part. Yeah, he has a tough job, but this job was only made tougher by his bullshit promises of speedy claims. Nobody asked him to promise the time frames he chose to crow about in every media outlet that would give him a listen. Nobody asked him to so dramatically climb aboard the white steed and gallop into the Gulf Region to save everyone’s day, only to have the horse stop short and throw him into the swamp.
So Feinberg? Yeah, Mr. Beshel probably shouldn’t have done it, but seriously…get over yourself and deal with it.
What is really “outrageous” is the fact you are actually asking people to come up with grocery receipts as part of the claims process. As the resident states in the article…who the hell keeps grocery receipts? And when you are a fisherman living in part off your catch, who the hell gives you receipts? Neptune? Feinberg recently expressed a great deal of humility in Alabama and has been able to speed up payments to businesses paying out over $200 million in one day to business owners, but one day does not a career make. You’ve still got a long way to go, so get to it…and if you feel the need to react, or vent, or express your frustration in any sort of way, my suggestion is you give the offices of British Petroleum a call…and leave the people in the parishes alone.
They don’t need any more shit from you, or anybody else…
I thought emergency relief payments were to be issued within 48 hours, the blow out preventer was coming to the surface, British Petroleum’s internal investigation had found itself innocent, Corexit was biodegrading, the oil plumes had disappeared, the Gulf’s waters were being reopened because all was clear, nobody was really getting sick, fishermen were happily returning to work, Bob Dudley had just been appointed British Petroleum Pope of all things efficient and green, while Barack Obama was born in a manger under a shiny star, and presented gifts of crab, shrimp and oysters by horse-riding representatives of the FDA, NOAA and the EPA on the new Christmas of August 29th.
Apparently, something went wrong.
Man, you leave the news cycle for five days and the official narrative officially goes to shit.
Oil is being found in the Mississippi Sound, a place that has recently been reopened for fishing by Mississippi’s DMR in coordination with the NOAA and the FDA. Oil is also being found in Pensacola Bay, Grand Isle and any number of other areas. In Pensacola Bay last week, BP officials were denying the reports of found oil until the Pensacola News Journal was supplied with two of the company’s own reports to the county about their cleanup efforts. One of the local fisherman, working for BP was quoted in the article saying, “BP says it’s all gone, but it’s not. I’ve known it was out there for a month. We were recovering it in a boat … scooping it up out of sand and dumping it into bags. They’re just trying to keep it quiet. Out of sight, out of mind.”
And, it isn’t only the oil that refuses to go away quietly, the dispersant Corexit also staged a triumphant return and not only in the Gulf of Mexico, now its being found in swimming pools. As reported on Florida Oil Spill Law:“Our heads are still swimming,” stated Barbara Schebler of Homosassa, Florida, who received word last Friday that test results on the water from her family’s swimming pool showed 50.3 ppm of 2-butoxyethanol, a marker for the dispersant Corexit 9527A used to break up and sink BP’s oil in the Gulf of Mexico. The Scheblers report a history of rashes, diarrhea, sick pets and children, and their neighbors are complaining of similar symptoms, some of whom don’t want to go on record. Nalco, the company that produces Corexit states their product largely biodegrades in 28 days, and since British Petroleum says they have not used Corexit since July 19th and yet the water in the pool was tested on August 18th it would certainly appear that someone is being less than truthful about not only the oil in Pensacola Bay, but the use of the dispersant, let alone near the coast and/or its properties.
Speaking of illness, the Alabama Press Register is reporting that so far 197 people have been treated for oil related health issues, a number that continues to rise despite Obama’s friendly swim a few weeks back. The President, of course would seem to have outstanding health care, being president and all, while the 197 families thus far affected? Many of them, not so much. Oh yeah, and the state of Alabama recently filed suit against British Petroleum and Transocean for attempting to cover up the oil’s effects and their use of Corexit, done without fully understanding the environmental impact of two million gallons of poison being dumped into the water and not near the coast.
The wildlife apparently ain’t doing so well either; miles of dead fish were discovered in lower Plaquemines Parish at the mouth of the Mississippi River. This accompanies several other reports of similar kills throughout the Gulf. Dr. Cake, a biological oceanographer feels they are directly related to the BP catastraphuk, and the combination of oil and dispersants throughout the water column. Meanwhile, despite the Louisiana DHH releasing a seafood safety report that found no evidence of oil in the seafood, tests performed by independent scientists are coming to very different conclusions, discovering unhealthy contamination in Louisiana oyster and crab sampled in Louisiana’s Atchafayala Bay, Pass-a-Loutre and Redfish Bay. It is results like these why many fishermen are refusing to trawl for shrimp and why two of Coastal Alabama’s foremost marine experts, Dauphin Island Sea Lab Director George Crozier and Robert Shipp, chairman of the University of South Alabama’s Marine Sciences Department are saying the submerged oil is threatening organisms that form the basic building blocks of the food chain.
Oh yeah, and remember when BP reported that BP’s internal investigation of BP had found BP innocent of the Deepwater Horizon explosion? Well, not so fast according to Reuters. The news agency now reports that BP’s internal probe has placed some of the blame on mistakes made by its engineers, claiming they misread pressure data that indicated a blowout was imminent. British Petroleum has also apparently discovered the value of hiring contractors. By use of contractors, British Petroleum can maintain that when cleanup workers aren’t paid, or people charge they are still using Corexit, BP can say well, we would never do such a thing, but our contractors might.
Oh, and it isn’t only cleanup workers notbeing paid. Ken Feinberg’s much ballyhooed claim that all would receive their emergency payments within 48 hours, yeah…that didn’t happen either. Amy Weiss, Feinberg’s spokesperson acknowledged there have been some delays, “In the first few weeks…we may be short of our 48-hour goal,” Weiss said in an e-mail.
This is not the way I left things five days ago; this is a sad state of affairs.
We got sick people, dead fish, oil in the water and dispersants in swimming pools. BP’s denying, then admitting and when they can’t figure anything else out, they blame it on contractors. Oil’s everywhere, the seafood, the marshes, the beaches, the seafloor and floating through the water in the water column. The blowout preventer hasn’t been raised. Seafood safety is still in doubt. Cleanup workers aren’t getting paid. Corexit is apparently still being used. And to top it all off, Feinberg’s much heralded 48 hour payments are behind, giving Gulf Coast residents precisely what they didn’t need right now, yet another public figure in this Catastraphuk who didn’t live up to his words.
Is it time yet to declare the official version, that all is well and/or rapidly improving in the Gulf of Mexico officially dead?
Sure would seem so.
So, in light of all these recent events, I feel it only fair to issue a warning:
To all those in charge, or not in charge depending on the investigation, my next vacation is in two months. These last five days I’ve been away have really gone badly for you so by October 30th, you all probably want to get your story straight.
I don’t want to come back again to more bad news. I don’t want to have to start taking this personal.
Who knows, when I get back next time on November 2nd, I could be reading how Bob Dudley secretly collects Hitler propaganda while beating his wife and Barack Obama was actually born in Kenya after all, secretly brought to Hawaii under cover of night by the EPA in a Coast Guard plane that is spraying dispersant even where they don’t find oil, you know…just for fun.
So guys, if you can’t get the Gulf right, can you at least start telling the truth? About anything?
On Monday, British Petroleum finally ponied up $52 million dollars to assist providers throughout the Gulf Coast in delivering mental health services for residents in need. Two studies, one by the Ochsner Medical Group and the other by National Center for Disaster Preparedness have both found Gulf Coast residents to be highly susceptible to symptoms of anxiety, stress, depression, PTSD and substance abuse, similar to any regional group so impacted by a catastrophic event, especially one with no end in sight. The grant money from British Petroleum is both welcome and desperately needed.
It is also only part of the story.
Not covered by this $52 million dollars are more comprehensive benefits such as assistance in finding employment, education, case management, food, direct assistance for rent and mortgages, utilities and other expenses. These areas are typically covered by FEMA, and can only be invoked through the Stafford Act, something the President typically does at the request of governors in the affected states. None have made this request so Barack Obama has not invoked Stafford. The reasons given are simple, nobody wants the tax-payers to foot any of the bill for British Petroleum’s catastraphuk.
In the meantime, Catholic Charities recently announced it is almost out of money and is now operating on scarce reserves. The organization has been providing assistance for food, rent and utilities to 19,000 families affected by the oil spill. In May, British Petroleum gave the charity $1 million dollars to help but when provided services cost $120,000 a week and BP’s initial donation came in almost three months ago, this has left Catholic Charities running on fumes while more families request assistance every week. As reported in Mother Jones, at one center a couple of weeks back “200 people showed up for 125 [grocery] cards. We’re still seeing more people than we can help,” said Margaret Dubuisson, Catholic Charities’ director of communications. Those at the charity, while appreciative of BP’s initial assistance and the mental health grant recognize behavioral health as only part of the problem, worries about feeding your family, paying the rent and bills and finding new work all contribute to the continued anxiety and stress of the region.
In June, twenty-seven non-profits aligned with Catholic Charities and requested an additional 12 million dollars from British Petroleum to assist in resources for providing services. While British Petroleum has made no promises, they say the request is under consideration, releasing a statement that reads in part, “We are proud of the partnership we’ve had with Catholic Charities. They were first on the ground and provided immediate assistance to those in need. Our partnership allowed them to expand their efforts to seven parishes. We have received many proposals with similar requests…we have been in conversations with all parties, hoping to identify the best way to support the community.”
While their consideration is appreciated, receiving no definitive answers have forced the charities to seek other ways to meet demand.
The Executive Director of Catholic Charities, Tom Costanza hopes the solution could be the Oil Spill Trust Fund created by the Oil Pollution act of 1990. Currently this fund has 1.6 billion in reserve, but its Chief of Programs Branch John Baker said in an interview the fund cannot be spent on human recovery, though the law might be amended to make such a thing possible, “We don’t even do pain and suffering or personal injury,” Baker said. Also off-limits is British Petroleum’s $20 billion dollar trust fund. Kenneth Feinberg, the trusts administrator recently stated that while he hasn’t ruled out all help to non-profits, he feels that financial assistance to food banks and temporary shelter programs is not covered by the fund. Mary Landrieu seconded this, stating that while she would work to help the non-profits, this is not how the claims fund is intended to be used.
These rejections are leaving Gulf Coast charities in a bad position. Broke, and breaking. Not having access to FEMA is “whole new ground in disaster recovery,” Costanza said.
So, taking a step back from all this, one question must be asked: would the charities and the people of the Gulf Coast be in these straits if it weren’t for BP’s catastraphuk?
19,000 families wouldn’t be in need of help. Rents wouldn’t be going unpaid. Jobs wouldn’t be lost and they wouldn’t be having trouble putting food on the table. While everyone is appreciative of the initial donation by British Petroleum which allowed the non-profits to, as BP’s statement rather self-servingly put it, “expand their services into several parishes,” it is not helpful when that company then stops any further assistance and makes the charities wait and wonder for two month whether any more assistance will be forthcoming. Feinberg has decreed that he will expedite claims in 48 hours to affected Gulf Coast residents and this is a great thing, but what of the affected families who experience glitches in paperwork, have trouble documenting their claims, or run into other bureaucratic snafus? And what of the people the charities were assisting before this oil spill, who were already in need, whose assistance will suffer because the end results of this oil spill broke the charities they were depending on?
British Petroleum owes these charities much more than they have given.
And not to be ignored are the politics involved. None of the regions governors, especially the two with 2012 presidential aspirations want to be the guy who asks the president to invoke the Stafford Act, especially when they run on campaigns of a limited federal government, but in the meantime their constituents suffer and will continue to do so even with the $20 billion dollar escrow and the $52 million dollar mental health grant. Yes, calling in FEMA would put this on the taxpayers dime, but hasn’t the government been issuing bills to British Petroleum for services rendered all along? If the 1990 oil pollution act doesn’t allow these reimbursements, then why not work to change the law and make it retroactive?
Of course none of that would be necessary if BP would just come through on making people whole as they have so often promised.
When announcing the mental health grant on Monday, Lamar McKay, British Petroleum’s US President said:
“We appreciate that there is a great deal of stress and anxiety across the region and as part of our determination to make things right for the people of the region, we are providing this assistance now to help make sure individuals who need help know where to turn…”
That’s nice Mr. McKay, but helping people cope with mental health problems without working to alleviate the conditions fueling the stress, anxiety, PTSD and depression is like closing a window only halfway to keep out the storm’s driving rain.
Your company broke the charities.
Your company bought them.
The ultimate responsibility to fix this mess is yours.