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BP Settlement is tip of iceberg | Gulf oil spill cover-ups widespread

BP Settlement is intended to bolster BP’s public relations, but the BP oil spill is not an isolated case, says whistleblower

4-30-2013

BP Settlement BP Claims logo

British Petroleum dumps oil on America’s Gulf Coast.

Kudos to reporter David Hammer of WWL TV in New Orleans. Hammer has just published an article exposing widespread cover-ups of Gulf oil spills. Hammer’s article begins:

It was something of an eye-opener when an oil company pleaded guilty to two environmental crimes in January.  Not because the pollution reported was anything on the scale of the BP spill, but because of the brazen cover-up involved.”

The company, Houston-based W&T Offshore, admitted its workers had used coffee filters in October 2009 to clean oil and other minerals out of the water byproduct discharged overboard from their platform in the Ewing Banks 910 lease block, about 65 miles south of Port Fourchon.

They were filtering the oil out of the water samples that were sent into a lab and recorded with the federal government.

Meanwhile, the water they were dumping back into the Gulf on a constant basis stayed contaminated.

W&T also pleaded guilty to spilling oil into the Gulf of Mexico in November 2009 and not reporting it to authorities, as required by law. The company agreed to pay $1 million in fines and community service for their crimes.

I (attorney Michael J. Evans, publisher of this blog) set up a blog entitled BPOilNews.com the week after the Deepwater Horizon explosion in April 2010. During the course of the spill, particularly during the early days, I hired a journalist and dispatched a videographer to take video to document the damage caused by BP. I’m not the only one to document BP’s coverup, Mother Jones and Pro Publica were both very aggressive in covering the story of the BP oil spill and the BP cover-up.

BPOilNews.com sent a videographer to document the damage, but sheriff’s deputies acting at the direction of BP employees blocked his access. And it wasn’t just our blog, BPOilnNews.com, that documented the cover-up. Others reported the cover-up, ad BPOilNews.com reported on the cover-up (see Oil spill pictures suggest a cover-up on Grande Isle – sand being used to cover up the oil, published July 2, 2010 on BPOilNews.com. Our reporting about BP and the government’s violations of the public’s First Amendment rights was mentioned in a law review article by the Environmental Law Institute.

Alabama businesses deserve every penny they can collect from the BP Settlement

So if any of you think BP deserves a break when it comes to Alabama businesses filing claims in the BP settlement, please think again. BP has lied from May 2010 until the last time a BP official opened his mouth. BP does not deserve your pity; it should be held fully accountable for ALL economic damage it may have caused ANYWHERE in the State of Alabama.

BP’s most recent court filings have been multiple, repetitive motions asking the settlement judge to order the Settlement Administrator to quit paying “absurd claims” such as a $9.7 million dollar claim by a North Alabama paving contractor. BP has even filed a separate lawsuit against the BP Settlement Admiistrator, and has asked the appellate court to halt the payments and accelerate the appeal.

[Read more…]

BP Settlement News Website Launched

Can Big Oil Avoid Its Responsibility to Make the People and Businesses of the Gulf Coast States Whole After the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill? We hope not.

The BP settlement continues to generate controversy as BP tries every trick in the law books to avoid paying BP claims that it owes under the Deepwater Horizon settlement agreement.

I’m working with two experienced class action litigation firms to offer representation to those needing professional help filing BP claims. As part of our effort to make sure every class member with a valid BP claim actually finds out about it, we’ve launched BP Settlement News.

We already had one website at BP Settlement Help, but it wasn’t designed for frequent updates with news about the settlement. Both BP Settlement News and BP Settlement Help provide forms that allow people to obtain free legal evaluations of their potential BP claims.

I believe those who visit BP Settlement News tomorrow will find the articles interesting.

Gulf Coast Claims Facility and the Feinberg Pledge

Is Kenneth Feinberg’s credibility as administrator of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility totally shot? If it isn’t, it should be.

I’ve got a post on the BP-Claims-Report.com blog with a video of Feinberg addressing a meeting of Gulf oil spill victims in Larose, Louisiana in June 2010. Feinberg made a lot of promises, but the most appalling thing about the video was his emphatic “pledge” to the people of Larose. You can read the entire post here: BP Claims Czar Kenneth Feinberg – Promises Made to be Broken.

The Feinberg Pledge came after almost 5 minutes of telling desperate people that he was going to tell them exactly how the program would work. He said they deserved to know. Here are some of the things Feinberg said:

  • “A program like this cannot be designed or administered from Washington.”
  • “You guys need certainty. Let me tell you the plan.”
  • “I am not a government official. I am not a BP official.”
  • “I will keep the people that are already working on this program. I will add additional people. But the additional people I add must come from the region. They’ve got to be people, they have to be local people that are trusted, that know their neighbors, that understand better than I ever could exactly what the needs and wants are of the people in the locale.”
  • “I have to make sure that the people on the ground that are evaluating the claims are local, diverse, understand, and are sensitive to those needs. I pledge I will do that.

But these things aren’t true. In a September 16, 2010 article, Feinberg admitted he has hired no local employees. The only employees he has hired is 25 people in his Washington, D.C. office. These employees have final approval over all claims, which sounds a whole lot like a program being administered in Washington, D.C. Here’s what the interview with Feinberg revealed:

  • “The last stop on the claims process is in Washington, D.C.,” Feinberg said. “All claims must go through this hub to ensure consistency. There are 25 employees in my office reviewing and finalizing claims.”
  • If anything, Feinberg said that he would decrease the number of adjusters he has working in the Gulf as the volume of claims eases.

One can argue that Feinberg’s broken promises about paying claims within 48 were the result of underestimating the difficulty of the job. (I don’t buy this for reasons I will explain later in another post). But Feinberg didn’t unintentionally break his pledge. It’s sad that his pledge is worthless. It’s even sadder that he seems to have no sense of shame about it.

As someone who posted a hopeful article after the $20 billion fund was created and Feinberg was appointed administrator, I wanted to believe that Feinberg would actually be a blessing to people on the Gulf. But I believe it’s become obvious that’s not going to happen. At this point, I think it’s reasonable for Gulf residents to view Kenneth Feinberg as an adversary.

If you filed a BP claim with the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, you can share your experiences and opinions on our BP Claims Report Card and the Kenneth Feinberg Confidence Survey. You can also express your opinions on our BP Claims Help Facebook page.

New BP Claims Site Launched

BP claims processing by the Gulf Coast Claim Facility is now in its fourth week, and by now it’s clear the performance doesn’t match some of the promises BP Claims Czar Kenneth Feinberg made in July and August. With the oil well capped, I’ve launched a new site covering BP claims processing and oil spill litigation at BP-Claims-Report.com.

One thing I hope will draw interest is the BP Claims Report Card, which lets BP claimants grade the performance of Kenneth Feinberg and the Gulf Coast Claims Facility. It’s not a scientific survey, but it should provide some interesting insights into the operations of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility.

We’ve also got several videos of Kenneth Feinberg making promises about how he would handle BP claims. Here are some quotes from the videos of Kenneth Feinberg:

  • “I will keep the people that are already working on this program. I will add additional people. But the additional people I add must come from the region. They have to be local people that are trusted, that know their neighbors, that understand better than I ever could exactly what the needs and wants are of the people in this locale.”
  • “I have to make sure that the people on the ground that are evaluating the claims are local, diverse, understand and are sensitive to those needs. I pledge I will do that.”
  • “Kudos and praise to Darrel, to BP for what they’ve done so far. There is absolutely no sense at all, driving BP into bankruptcy. That would be a disaster, a disaster.”

Although the video shows Mr. Feinberg pledging to hire local people to help pay claims, the news this week reveals that local people were not hired. ProPublica reported this week:

“Feinberg told us that he has kept the roughly 1,500 adjusters working in the Gulf from the Worley company (which was initially contracted by BP), but that he had added a final stop that claims must pass through before approval. “The last stop on the claims process is in Washington, D.C.,” Feinberg said. “All claims must go through this hub to ensure consistency. There are 25 employees in my office reviewing and finalizing claims.”

“Feinberg said that adding more employees in the Washington would result in less consistency in payments, and that he was not considering hiring more there. If anything, Feinberg said that he would decrease the number of adjusters he has working in the Gulf as the volume of claims eases. “I’m comfortable with the staffing situation,” Feinberg said. “I’ve concluded that you reach a point of diminishing returns. I’m trying to improve efficiency.”

Take a look at BP-Claims-Report.com if you have time. Comments are open on several pages.

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