PANAMA CITY – When President Obama was in Panama City last summer he said Kenneth Feinberg and the claims center would work independently from BP. Earlier this month a federal judge ruled that’s not the case. In at least once instance a company linked to BP received a very large claim. Now Senator Bill Nelson is calling for an independent investigation of the process.
“Our people up and down the Gulf Coast are hurting,” said Nelson. That was evident during Ken Feinberg’s town hall meetings last month in Destin and Panama City Beach. Hundreds came out to ask Feinberg why their claims hadn’t been paid. Nelson says his office is inundated with calls from desperate oil spill victims. “Sometimes we are to speed up the process, but they shouldn’t have to come to their senator to get their claims paid.”
On February 2nd, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier ruled Feinberg is not independent from BP and he must stop telling potential claimants that he is. And investigators have uncovered at least one large claim paid to an unidentified company with ties to BP, while thousands of others are still waiting.
“When I find out that there was, of all the claims outstanding, that one was paid which was a $10 million claim paid to a BP partner, I want to know why.” Nelson wrote to President Obama and Feinberg last week. He has not received any response. President Obama set-up the claims process and tapped Feinberg to oversee it. “Only the White House can change this,” said Nelson.
Unless the facility begins to function independently, Nelson says something must change. “The President is going to have to get somebody else.”
Of the $20 billion set aside to pay claims, the facility has doled out just under $3.5 billion to nearly 169,000 claimants.
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