BP steps up its war against the citizens on the Gulf Coast


Throughout 2014, BP has shown us its true colors, again and again. The “friendly, community-oriented company” that the British oil giant spent hundreds of millions of dollars depicting in its slick television ads — its effort to clean up its image even as gooey tar balls continue to assault the beaches of the Gulf Coast — is all but gone. In its place is a Grinch that is seeking to add insult to the grievous injury that was caused when BP unleashed 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf. This icon of Big Oil is now channeling all its energy into undoing its promises to make good the massive amount of damage to people, to animal life and to the environment caused by the Deepwater Horizon tragedy.

It started when BP hired new attorneys determined to undo the settlement that its original lawyers had negotiated — and fiercely advocated for — with the small business owners and with residents of the Gulf who’d been sickened by their exposure to BP’s oil. The firm even ran disgraceful ads making thinly veiled accusations that some businessman and others who’d been harmed by the loss of tourism and other commerce due to BP’s recklessness — such as famed restaurateur Emril Lagasse — were abusing the settlement, and it even closed its own internal claims process while many harmed businessman were still awaiting their payments.

But the saddest news about BP’s obsessive drive to reverse its make-good obligation to the Gulf is that its efforts are starting to show some success — with victories that are taking place beneath the public’s radar screen. This news, in particular, is devastating to those with long-term health problems caused by the oil spill: 

NEW ORLEANS – Thousands of Gulf oil spill cleanup workers could lose the right to collect medical claims checks of up to $60,700 from BP, thanks to yet another latter-day interpretation of the oil giant’s promises to compensate victims of the 2010 spill.

Last month, BP quietly won a ruling that could save it tens of millions of dollars and severely reduce what Gulf residents can collect for chronic illnesses they developed after helping clean up the company’s mess.

And as with several issues that have delayed payments to businesses that lost money after the spill, the latest dispute over settlement meaning has emerged from just a few words out of hundreds of pages.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier ruled July 23, upholding an earlier policy statement from medical claims administrator Matt Garretson. That policy sided with BP’s contention that cleanup workers had to have been diagnosed with particular conditions before April 16, 2012, to qualify for what is called “Specified Physical Condition” payments.

This is outrageous. Many, many people who were legitimately exposed to, and made ill by, BP’s spilled out will be denied health benefits under this interpretation, through no fault of their own. Some of these individuals were not immediately aware of the connection between oil-spill exposure and their symptoms — headaches, nausea or far worse. Others waited to speak up because they were fearful of losing clean-up work doled out by BP, or other potential business. All of them are getting injured by BP — and its corporate ethos that values profits over people — all over again.

And this is not the only area where BP’s dispicable campaign is gaining ground:

HOUSTON – A federal judge is allowing BP to negotiate the scope of a massive subpoena aimed at gathering government documents related to the temporary moratorium on deep-water drilling that followed the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The order this week by U.S. Magistrate Judge Sally Shushan sets aside a legal bout over BP’s right to blame the government for other companies’ financial losses in the wake of the  spill that resulted from the blowout of a BP well.

From a financial standpoint, this is huge. A victory on this front could save BP hundreds of millions of dollars. More importantly, it speaks to the rank immorality of this multinational corporation. Everything BP is doing right now comes down to one basic overriding principle: That somebody else is to blame. This is unconscionable — and it’s important that people realize what is going on. The war for the future of the Gulf is on, and the people will not win unless we fight back.

Read the important report from the Advertiser about BP winning a narrow definition of medical benefits for sickened Gulf clean-up workers: http://www.theadvertiser.com/story/news/local/louisiana/2014/08/14/oil-clean-workers-may-lose-claims-bp-checks/14095133/

Check out more from FuelFix about how BP is fighting against claims from other offshore drillers: http://fuelfix.com/blog/2014/08/14/judge-oks-bps-subpoena-of-fed-documents-for-now/

© Smith Stag, LLC 2014 – All Rights Reserved

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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