Fear and Loathing in Florida


More word games coming from BP in Florida, where the Destin Log reports that people are being told no claims from May will be paid. Adding to the concern and outright fear is that BP seems to be re-positioning on the economic claims issue – moving away from “making it right” on economic damages and hoping to limit claims to areas actually hit by the oil. We can address the issues, but let’s notice right up front that they are hearing this in August, after being jerked around for months.

The Log quotes Chad Hamilton, chairman of the Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce, saying the latest revelations indicate BP is backing away. “I think this stance by BP is another signal they’re retreating and that’s going to continue to happen. We all had trouble believing their stance of ‘we will make it right’ since day one, and this is your answer. It’s a clear signal,” Hamilton told the paper.

There has been follow-up on the issue: Mary Shafer-Malicki, the deputy incident commander for Florida, reportedly sent state Sen. Don Gaetz what she termed “a clarification” of company policy when he asked for it last week.

The response was interesting: “BP will make claim payments based on the time an area has been impacted due to oiled beaches. This is consistent with the Oil Pollution Act (OPA), which is guiding BP’s claims process. In general, Louisiana had oiled beaches or marshes in May, while Alabama, Mississippi and Florida did not have beaches oiled until June.”

That’s of course a bogus BP-lawyer reading of the OPA, but it should erase whatever credibility the company had – not that it ever had any – about playing fair with claims. People were counting on at least something, and it’s bound to turn ugly when these folks are getting turned down months after taking the hit.

Read the full story: http://www.thedestinlog.com/news/claims-14855-florida-losses.html

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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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