U.S. spill administrator urges quick claim filing

By Alexandria Sage

HOUMA, Louisiana (BestGrowthStock) – The U.S. official overseeing a $20 billion oil spill compensation fund on Thursday urged Gulf Coast residents harmed by BP Plc to promptly file claims rather than wait for the outcome of eventual lawsuits.

“My frustration is if people don’t file a claim,” said Kenneth Feinberg, addressing a crowd of hundreds at a civic center auditorium in Houma, Louisiana. “I’ve got this money to distribute but I can only help if the claim is filed.”

Locals whose livelihoods have been threatened by the oil gushing from BP’s stricken deepwater well have complained that the claims process the British company has thus far been administering is arduous, too slow and capricious.

Feinberg urged residents to trust in the process.

“If you think this is a trick, if you think this is a trap — it isn’t. If you think that, don’t do it,” he said. “You can go file a lawsuit, but, my friends, I’m telling you that lawsuit you’ll litigate for years, you may not win, you’ve got to pay a lawyer.”

By about August 10, Feinberg will preside over the claims process, taking over the reins from BP, which has paid out about $191 million on 18,100 claims as of July 12, according to the company’s website.

By August 10 “BP is gone,” Feinberg said. “They’re out of the claims businesses and I will be responsible for processing all claims from individuals and businesses.”

In coming weeks, Feinberg’s fund will begin to issue emergency payments to cover individuals for six months, versus the one-month payments BP has been paying.

Feinberg sought to assure those who have been paid in cash and do not have the necessary paperwork to show how they have been hurt by the oil spill, which began gushing oil into the Gulf of Mexico in late April, causing a major environmental disaster.

Wayde Bonvillain, a soft-shell crab seller, expressed his frustration over the loss of his own business and the crabbing industry, which he said would take 30 years to come back.

“BP put me out of business. How they going to get that oil off the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico?” he shouted, challenging BP and government officials to eat what he said was toxic crab.

“Are y’all going to eat any of those crabs? You got to eat the whole crab!” said Bonvillain, to audience applause.

Thomas Dardar, principal chief of the American-Indian United Houma Nation, said Feinberg’s answers to the crowd were “rhetorical.”

“How do you put a dollar sign on your heritage and your cultural past?” he said. “We feel like people on death row. You know death is coming, but you don’t know when.”

(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

U.S. spill administrator urges quick claim filing