Gulf Claims Process Under Fire


"Washington lawmakers are demanding the White House step in."

In a White House speech last June, President Obama vowed that the $20 billion he helped coax out of BP for an oil spill-compensation fund would take care of victims "as quickly, fairly and transparently as possible."

Eight months later, that's not how things look to many Gulf Coast people.

Tens of thousands of fishermen, oyster shuckers, business owners and hotel operators still await payment. Many others whose claims have been turned down question the evenhandedness. And without the data to determine who is right, attorneys general and Congress members question the openness.

An AP review, including interviews with legal experts, government officials and over 300 Gulf residents found a process beset by red tape, and at the center of it—a fund administrator whose BP ties raise questions about his independence.

Now, the dissatisfaction has reached fever pitch: Washington Lawmakers are demanding the White House step in. The Louisiana governor wants a federal judge to intervene, and those most affected by the disaster are threatening to line the courthouse steps if they don't get the changes they seek from Administrator Kenneth Feinberg.

"A lot of promises were made by Feinberg and President Obama that this would be a very open process, and I just don't feel that's the case," said Rep. Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana).

Feinberg has insisted he is being fair, admitting the system is clogged by the volume of claims and inflated or outlandish requests. One person filed a claim for the entire $20B, while another asked for $10B; a boat captain sought reimbursement for lost income for himself and four deckhands—even though he didn't have any deckhands; and a fisherman claimed he lost a month on the water, but his boat had a hole in it and was dry-docked even before the spill.

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