Thus far, more than 470,000 compensation claims have been filed against BP for damages caused when the well blew and oil spilled into the Gulf — and eventually onto the shores of several Southern states.
However, note that only 168,000 of the claims have been paid and only $2.9 billion of the $20 billion oil-spill claims fund have been used in the nearly six months since the Gulf Coast Claims Facility was opened to accept applications.
Though it’s probable that some claims do not qualify for reimbursement, the process nonetheless has been slow. For some coastal businesses, it’s been disastrous.
Time and again, Kenneth Feinberg, the administrator of the fund, and other officials have met with oil-spill victims to explain the compensation process and hear their concerns. Each time they have received an ear-full from angry, uncompensated coastal residents.
Even a U.S. Justice Department letter to Feinberg asking him to move the claim process along more quickly and make it more transparent has not significantly changed things. As a result, coastal residents have gone to court and asked a federal judge to step in.
It is a mess.
Meanwhile, the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling has ruled that the federal Oil Pollution Act does not require BP and the other companies involved to pay for efforts to restore consumer confidence in the seafood coming from the Gulf and in the coast as a tourist attraction.
That the companies are responsible for repairing the environmental damage to the region is good news, but residents there are part of a human economic ecosystem. The companies responsible for the spill must not be allowed to ignore that important fact.
Alabama Sens. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, and Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile, have expressed concern about this ruling. They should join with other congressmen who represent the affected states to ensure that coastal commerce is promoted.
However, the commission report also contains recommendations for more oversight and safer drilling. This page hopes Shelby and Sessions recognize how important it will be in the future to avoid the mistakes of the past. If offshore drilling is to go forward, it must be under the tightest safety controls possible.
That said, Feinberg must increase the claims processors’ expediency. People down there need help and, so far, many are not getting it.