Oil spill claims show statewide scope of Deepwater Horizon disaster


BP PLC’s oil spill claims payments in Alabama reflect the economic ripple that the disaster sent throughout the state, according to a leading economist.

More than $86 million of the $97 million in individual claims paid by BP through Aug. 23 were delivered to businesses and residents in Mobile and Baldwin counties.

The company also handed out $4 million worth of payments altogether to claimants in heavily populated Jefferson, Shelby and Montgomery counties.

There were no claims payments made in three of the state’s 67 counties: Lamar, Perry and Barbour. And payments in one county — Crenshaw — totaled just $125.

“The coast is important to our tourism sector, and it’s tied into the rest of the state economy, both structurally and spatially,” said University of Alabama economist Sam Addy. “This tells me that we have an asset. We may not think of it as such, but it’s a good asset.”

Experts knew the coast economy had “linkages all through the state,” he said. “But the degree is what’s surprising. These economic inter-linkages between things like fishing and tourism are deep and significant.”

The figures released by BP last week represent claims paid to individuals, not government entities, according to oil company spokesman Ray Melick.

Ken Feinberg’s Gulf Coast Claims Facility took control of payments Aug. 23.

Of the cities outside Mobile and Baldwin counties, payments to claimants in Birmingham topped the list at nearly $2.5 million. That exceeded the claims payments to individuals in Dauphin Island or Fairhope, each totaling about $2.2 million.

Checks cut for claimants in Florence, in the far northwest corner of the state, added up to about $138,000, more than Point Clear, Satsuma, Citronelle and Creola.

A breakdown of the payments by ZIP Code also shows the disparity in types of losses reported, and the amounts sought.

For example:

* BP reported paying a $16 claim for a wage loss in Spanish Fort.

* Payments of $125 each were made to claimants in Luverne and Cuba, Ala., for loss of rental income.

* The company reported paying a $160.63 claim for wage loss in McIntosh.

In essence, Addy said, the dark oil and slippery sheen coated more than the snow-white beaches and fishing communities.

“People living in other counties should not think they are not affected when something happens to Baldwin and Mobile counties,” Addy said. “Our economy is very much interrelated.”

In Mississippi, about $27 million of the $31 million in BP’s business or personal claims payments were made in four counties on the state’s south end: Jackson, Harrison, Hancock and Pearl River.

No payments were sent to 24 of the 82 Mississippi counties.

Addy said the distribution of Mississippi’s claims was more expected.

In Louisiana, BP paid $152 million in business and residential claims, but no checks were sent to anyone in 10 of the 64 parishes. In Florida, which tallied $81 million in claims, there were no claims recipients in 10 of the 67 counties.

Melick said that the distribution reflects ZIP Codes where the payments were mailed, not specifically the home address of the individual who received the claim. For example, someone living in Lamar County could have perhaps requested a check sent to a post office box in Baldwin County.

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

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